Stories From Colombia2021-06-23T18:02:50+00:00

Corona Contradictions

By Margarita Sorock A man in bermudas and a T-shirt arrives at the entrance to the Pearly Gates. St. Peter (very harried): Where are you from? Man in bermudas: Cartagena. St. Peter: Don’t you have strict orders not to go out? This past weekend (May 23-25) was a long one, including Monday. Sunday and Monday were days of strict quarantine and dry law, even for beverages made and consumed at home. No stores were open except, perhaps, an occasional pharmacy.  Today’s newspaper reported the weekend tally: 720 fights requiring police intervention and 600 underground parties. It sounds like a normal [...]

Transformative Chocolate

Recently evacuated Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (RPCV) Elyse Magen would like to thank FOC for contributing to her National Peace Corps Association fundraising campaign “Economic Empowerment of Women in Colombia.” The campaign funding will be used to support a chocolate dessert business called Transformación, located in the municipality of Santa Marta, Colombia.    Transformación is run by four women and one young man who are all members of a farming collective called Guardabosques de la Sierra. The farming collective finds both national and international markets to sell the cacao grown by its members. As a small scale farmer, it is [...]

TCP Global Micro Loan Program

Yasmila often takes her Miracle Pot (La Olla Milagrosa) and a chicken to the poorest barrios around Fundación, inviting each family to contribute something—corn, yuca, potatoes, carrots or whatever they can spare. A few hours later, their stomachs bear witness to the greater good achieved when they work together. In the interim, Yasmila listens to their stories and shares her wisdom. She knows many of them as customers at her Fundación market warehouse, and she’s always searching for ways to help them improve their businesses. She offers free training programs and, for the last three years, has provided TCP Global [...]

Colombia’s Amazing Race to Build a $1,000 Ventilator

By Maureen Orth (PC Colombia 1964-1966) Long-time FOC member, Maureen Orth, recently reported on how three teams from Medellin built ventilator prototypes for COVID-19 in just ten days! Colombia can’t afford to buy expensive machines so with some creative thinking and unity amongst professors , students, doctors, industrialists , financiers, government, and the private sector, they made it happen. The prototypes are currently being testing on pigs and will hopefully be ready in a month. These ventilators will cost $1,000. Read Maureen's inspiring Vanity Fair piece in its entirety here: https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2020/04/colombias-amazing-race-to-build-a-1000-ventilator.

Senior Citizens Get In Free

By Margarita Sorock and Suzanne Adam, December 2019 We were intrigued by Parque Tayrona: its mountains and ocean, monkeys and magpies, and treacherous trails.  It was not open to the public when we were volunteers but more than 50 years later, Suzanne and Margarita decided to go exploring.  We were the oldest and undoubtedly the slowest visitors Tayrona saw that Monday afternoon in November.  For Margarita there was no entrance fee, since she is a Colombian resident (almost a national) and without a doubt, a senior citizen.  If you are tempted to replicate this experience or, as PCVs,  blaze you [...]

Once a volunteer, always a volunteer by Michael Band

By Michael Band, Colombia II-3 I was a Teaching English for Livelihoods Volunteer in La Boquilla, Bolivar from 2011 to 2014. I got the call when I was walking back from an undergraduate class in the spring of 2011. I reached into my pocket, picked up my Blackberry and was ecstatic to hear I had been accepted into the Peace Corps and would be headed to a country in the Middle East after I graduated. But it turns out that wasn’t the call that changed my life; that call came a week later when the Peace Corps called me back [...]

Kay and Kevin Dixon’s Return to Colombia

By Kay Dixon (RPCV 1962-1964) We grin at each other; I gently squeeze Kevin’s hand. The pilot announces, “We are making our final descent into El Dorado International Airport, Bogota, Colombia.” We are nearly there, returning to Colombia where our relationship began more than fifty years ago. Colombia captivates both of us. This is our third return visit to our magic kingdom. It’s nighttime in Bogota, just as it was when I arrived with Colombia 3, my Peace Corps group (seventy of us) in the fall of 1962. Our airplane circles down onto the lighted runway. Through the window, just [...]

The Role of Microfinance

By Helene Dudley Peace Corps taught me to be comfortable in a diverse and interesting world. It taught me not to just tolerate differences but to embrace them. Peace Corps also taught me to care what happens in other countries, so when Colombia led the planet in murders, kidnapping and internal displacement 20 years ago, I joined Colombia RPCVs to seek a way to help – to really help – not just prayers and good wishes and a check, but to actually DO something. At an April 2000 meeting of displaced people, lawyers and social workers in Bogota, we learned [...]

How Creativity Blossoms During Service Words and Photos by Alexandra Tracy

Never before in my life have I gotten to work so closely and so often with many artisans, indigenous crafters, seamstresses, and entrepreneurs. My Peace Corps volunteer service encouraged me to work with all sorts of people, but little did I know that my creative left-sided brain would kick-in full speed. I’m very grateful that I had the time and space to allow my creativity to bloom, especially to find and connect with my innovative entrepreneurial spirit. The following is a spotlight on a couple of projects I started, collaborated on, or supported along that ignited my creative side. Carnival [...]

Talleres Por la Paz

By Maya Cross (CII-8, 2016-2019)  This project began because of a friendship between Maya, a young Peace Corps Volunteer and Katy, a dedicated Colombian mother. Their connection was based on a shared dream: a dream of a town in peace. A dream of a town where children would feel listened to and safe to be their authentic selves. A dream of a town where adults would value the unique talents of every child and empower them to become the leaders of the future. That dream was the basis of what would become, Talleres por la Paz. If Talleres Por la [...]

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