– by Andy Lamb (PCRV, CED)
Hey Friends of Colombia,
I am writing desde the Caribbean coast of Colombia, where the sun is always bravo and the neighbor’s vallenato is never-ending.
I’m part of the 10 person Peace Corps Response Volunteer team assigned to the region with the task of establishing the Community Economic Development (CED) sector. We are spread out across the coastal area, operating in four departments: Atlántico, Bolívar, Magdalena, and La Guajira. The first three months of our time in site was dedicated to performing a community diagnostic, in which we were able to better understand the various needs and desires of the communities. The information gathered during this period will be used to set a more standardized view of the region in order to prioritize the focus of the entire CED sector and to aid the future PCVs that will be continuing our work in October.
My community is Campo de la Cruz, located at the southern tip of Atlántico. This entire region was devastated by extreme flooding in 2010 and is still working to recuperate the economic activities that sustained their livelihoods. Due to the lack of employment opportunities for the majority of Campo’s citizens, and especially the youth, one of the main projects that I will be developing is an entrepreneurship course designed specifically for the community’s youth. The course, Construye Tus Sueños, was designed by PCVs in the Dominican Republic and has now been edited and formatted to fit within a Colombian context. The goal of the course is to teach youth how to start their own small business from the ground up. Throughout the 14 sessions, the students learn everything from feasibility studies and SWOT analyses to marketing and accounting. At the end of the course the community and I have planned a business plan competition, during which each student has the opportunity to present their project in a professional setting. After determining which project is the best developed and most feasible, we would like to have the event sponsors invest in the small business so that the project’s starting budget is covered. Each year, the course will be taught and a winner will be selected with the ultimate goal being the establishment of a network of small businesses throughout the region that simultaneously contribute to the local economy and decrease youth delinquency.
Even though we are just getting started with our work here on the coast, it means the world to us knowing that we have the support of Colombia’s RPCV network, and our loved ones back home. Nevertheless, we have quite large shoes to fill in order to live up to this country’s legacy of amazing volunteers. With your hard work in mind, we are eager to develop a CED sector that will result in a positive, lasting change for the communities that we currently call home.