It is a great honour to announce ONCA’s new honorary patron – Nena Baltazar! Nena is the president and founder of Comunidad Inti Wara Yassi, without whom ONCA would not have been created.
Nena has dedicated her life to the care of rescued wildlife in Bolivia. She works tirelessly every day to protect the three sanctuaries that she’s built in order to provide safe homes for animals under threat.
CIWY began in the 1980s, when a group of Bolivian volunteers – including Nena – began an initiative to teach trade skills to less privileged young people in La Paz. This education program included a field trip to the ‘Choro Trail.’ The young people from the altiplano were amazed by the luscious vegetation and quantity of wildlife that they witnessed in the wilderness. But as they reached Coroico they witnessed the negative impact that humans were having upon the environment and wildlife, particularly from slash-and-burn agriculture. The sight of the scorched earth deeply affected the youth, and they committed to create an environmental movement to show the public the adverse effects of destroying the rainforest.
The group began to campaign and raise awareness, expressing the urgent need for environmental legislation to protect the forests and animals of Bolivia. At the same time, Nena rescued a young spider monkey, also called ‘Nena’ – which means ‘baby’ – and at the age of 20, resolved to create the first wildlife refuge in Bolivia, to properly rehabilitate and care for the large number of animals that needed help.
Over the years CIWY’s work evolved and its principal mission is now to help rescued wildlife, although Nena never lost sight of her original work with young people, and as well as running environmental education programmes around the country, CIWY has also provided homes, education and work for young people interested in learning about wildlife.
When ONCA’s founder, Laura, first went to Bolivia in 2007, she met Nena, and all the other inspiring people working every day to protect and care for the 500+ animals at CIWY. She also met a rescued puma – whose name was Wayra – and it was the relationship that she formed with Wayra, CIWY, and Nena, that inspired her to create ONCA in 2012. It is the backbone of CIWY work that everyone deserves a home, and everyone deserves to have their story listened to, and paid attention to. This lies at the heart of ONCA, too, and it is an honour to welcome Nena onto our board of honorary patrons.