Entrepreneurship for families with disability

The previous blog spoke about an entrepreneurship project with students. This blog presents an entrepreneurship project in FANDIC that involves people with disability and their families. This project received funding from the Rotary Club of Calgary South.

The purpose of this micro-enterprise project is to provide an employment opportunity for disadvantaged people. Selected individuals were invited to participate in training offered by the Chamber of Commerce on topics such as entrepreneurship, administration and finance. Some used the training to improve their own businesses; others are involved in this micro-business project. Many save their earnings in a Gema Savings Group (more about that later).

The sales booth in the Mesa de los Santos. Pictured from the right are Marcela (project coordinator), Bryanda (Fandic treasurer), Adela (vendor), Marlene (CAPD), and Bob (CAPD and member of the Calgary South Rotary Club).

The booth sells Sweets and Chocolates Caballero, products developed by Isidoro Caballero, the ‘chocolate’ man I wrote about last year and whose products are now registered with the Colombian food and drug agency. Adela, the vendor, is a member in the Gema savings group in her zone.

Products on sale at the booth.

A variety of items are available at the booth including candies, chocolate for making chocolate milk (with and without sweetener), chocolates filled with fruit and coconut, and FANDIC’s pound cake.

Andres (Fandic driver) demonstrates the compactness of the booth. The booth fits into the backpack he is wearing and weighs very little.

Andres sets up the booths in the Sunday Farmer’s markets while Marcela goes through inventory with the vendor. FANDIC currently has booths at 2 Sunday markets and a booth in a 15-day market to sell handmade products. Their plan is to continue increasing the number of booths, thus providing opportunity for more people.

Marcela and Andres (right) pose with the vendor, Carmen, and her daughter Myra (left).

Myra, a young client of FANDIC, receives on-the-job training in sales from her mother. Her enthusiastic approach to life has won the hearts of fellow vendors. For her mother Carmen, this micro business is an opportunity to add to the meager family income. She is also part of a Gema savings group.

Mrya provides information on the products I am buying – a box of fruit-filled chocolates and chocolate for making hot chocolate.

You bet I’ll be back to buy more chocolate goodies next week!


“YES” to Entrepreneurship

Last November, Bob, Rocio Nuñez (National Coordinator of the Green Light Program (GL)) and I visited the Investing Hope Foundation in Bogota to learn about their entrepreneurship program with school children. Impressive to say the least!

YES group in Mesa de los Santos

This year, the program was brought to Santander where there are 6 groups, two in rural schools and 4 in Fandic. Group size ranges between 12 and 18 students. Seeing this is a pilot year, Rocio is facilitator of all the groups but she will provide training to other facilitators with the GL program so programs can be opened in other schools next year.

Bob and I visited the Yes Groups in the Mesa de los Santos and in Fandic. We were enamored with the enthusiasm with which the program has taken hold and will try transmit some of this enthusiasm from them to you.

Students submit earnings.

First order of business is for the students to submit their earnings to the elected committee who records the intake and the balance between earnings and the amount owed for raw materials.

Students select sweets to put on the skewers.

Rocio shows them how the skewer or “pincho” is to be constructed. Students select a 3 large candies and 4 small candies for each pincho.

Two Fandic children construct their Pincho

Then they begin to construct their pincho. Those in Fandic receive assistance in helping them with the process. It is used as a teaching moment to teach numbers, colours and relative size. It also helps to improve dexterity.

The pincho is wrapped in a bag and secured with a ribbon.

The pincho sells for $0.50 of which the student earns $0.25. Besides the pincho, the students sell pound cake baked in the Fandic bakery, chocolates made by Isidoro’s chocolate factory, and candy bags. Since July, the two groups in the Mesa have sold 1,433 pinchos and 996 pieces of pound cake for a total of 822,000 COP or $411.00 in savings.

The children sell to family and friends. Some of them have pre-orders. Their earnings go into a box and accounts are triple checked. At the end of the year, they have the option of opening a savings account in the local bank. They can either withdraw the money or continue to save. Some saving goals are the purchase of clothing, a telescope, a camera and for travel.

A Mother poses with her pre-school daughter and her niece.

Parents are anxious for their children to become involved in the program because they recognize the value. The smallest girl on the left is 5 years old. Her mother on the right told her what to do, but she made the pincho. The middle girl is a cousin, who was quite productive!

Entrepreneurship and saving have taken hold! More on this topic in weeks to come.


What’s happening in Colombia?

It has been a long time since I have contributed to this blog but that doesn’t mean that lots hasn’t been going on! Our Colombian partners have been very active in our absence! And soon, we will see their new initiatives with our own eyes (and camera) so I can show them to you.

But in the meantime, to whet your appetite, I’d like to present you with a link to a new product from ASODISPIE. It is called HandBike and it converts a manual wheelchair into an electric wheelchair that can travel over rough, unpaved paths.


The engineer who developed this product is John Portilla. The HandBike is a by-product from technology developed in a larger project supported by the Rotary Club of Calgary South (Bob’s club) to recover abandoned electric wheelchairs whose electrical components had failed. John developed an “in-house” electrical control that is many times less expensive than the foreign one. More about this topic in a future blog.

For now, I invite you to view a short 1:20 minute video showing the features of the handbike. Please click on the link to see the video: https://youtu.be/2yaPBrqz-Oo .

Talk again soon,


Update on the “Chocolate Man”

Remember Isidoro, the man with the chocolate factory, that I wrote about in May 2018? At the time of writing, he was looking to raise funds so he could register his products with Invima, Colombia’s food and drug regulatory agency.

Isidoro in his old store.

The first piece of good news is that Isidoro is now in the process of registering one line of business, the one that produces chocolates and candies. He thinks that once he is is able to increase the distribution of these products, he will raise sufficient funds to register the second line, the chocolate used for hot chocolate.

The front of the new store, looking in.

The second piece of good news, is that Isidoro and his new partner opened a new store in a high traffic area. The new store is located about an hour from Bucaramanga and overlooks the reservoir created by Sogamosa Dam. The view is beautiful.

View from Isidoro’s new store.

I was there a week after it opened, so much of the potential of the new location is yet to be realized. At that moment, one could only purchase chocolate products and beverages.

Customers making decisions on what to purchase.

While others relax and enjoy the view.

This location has lots of potential for menu expansion as well as for other services, according to Isidoro’s partner. We wish them success!!

This is a “special interest” blog as Isidoro is not a CAPD project. He is, however, a friend who warms our hearts with his accomplishments.



In Memory of Armero, Tolima

I had not really internalized the scope of the tragedy that occurred during the night in November 1985, when the volcano Nevada del Ruiz erupted and caused massive and fast-moving mud slides into 6 drainage areas.  The best known of these was the tragedy that befell the municipality of Armero, Tolima, Colombia where 25,000 of the 40,000 inhabitants perished in a few hours.  Those who were not buried suffered from acid burns since the mud mixture contained high amounts of sulphur. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Armero_tragedy.

Monument to those who lost their lives. Note the grave marker to the right of Bob’s foot.

This monument gives one a sense of what lies below. The mud zone has reverted to bush over the years, but the bush is littered with grave markers where families died.

What was once the 4rth floor, has become the first floor.

The building you see in the photo was actually the 4th floor of the hospital.

This rock was moved 14 km.

This rock had been a well-known fixture in a stream 14 km upstream from where it landed.

This monument is where the police station stood and where 35 police died.

While there were warning signs that the volcano was about to erupt, there was a simultaneous distraction occurring in Bogota which paralyzed the national government.  This Bogota event was the takeover of the Supreme Court (Palacio de Justicia)  by the armed group M-19.  The outpouring of foreign assistance to help Armero survivors  was truly impressive and  components of that assistance still are in evidence in the region today.

Many survivors ended up in a neighbouring town called Armero Guayabal but the tragedy lives on in their hearts and continues to shape the tourism industry in the region.





Green Light Program Highlights

In November, I toured communities where the Green Light (GL) education assistance program is active. Frankly, I was blown away by the enthusiasm of parents and their projects. This blog presents highlights.


Parent group in la Purnia school.

The parents in the photo above are pretty enthusiastic about their project to raise money for school improvement projects such as a library, a garden of flowering plants and trees, and recycling. First, they planted corn, some of which they sold, and from the remainder they made a typical corn-based snack for sale. They used those funds to establish a library with internet and to plant flowers around their new school.

Their current project is to make and sell cleaning products. Several women took a course in SENA, Colombia’s technical institute, to learn the process. They had just begun to open for business when this photo was taken.

They make cleaning supplies for the kitchen, bathroom, floors, dishes etc.

These types of projects are flourishing in the 17 communities in which the GL program is active. Each community decides on how to raise the funds required to establish a community library, plant school gardens, and encourage recycling.

Students in the GL program with their parents.

Students thank CAPD and Canadians for the assistance received through the GL program.


Parent group in the Wayuu community of San Jose.

What are they holding in their hands? Articles made from recycled material!

A facilitator holds a large decorative item made from recycled material.

The San Jose community constructed a library in which they engage preschool and primary students in the elaboration of decorative items made from recycled materials. These activities raise consciousness in the children and encourage creativity. But that’s not all! They also cultivate crops for sale such as hay and are building a kid’s park made of recycled tires.

Mothers speak about the importance of the GL program in the lives of their children.

The next generation.

This traditional shoulder bag called a “mochila” was made by women in the Jurimakal community.

Other Wayuu communities make and sell these traditional bags, called mochilas, to earn funds for their community projects. These are beautifully hand-crafted bags that resist the wear and tear of daily use.

A bit of fun – posing with the hats gifted by the community. Luis, left, is the facilitator for the community of Jurimakal. Miladis, facilitator of the community of Pinski, is on the right. Beside her is Rocio, the National Coordinator of the GL program and the creative vision behind these projects.

The objective of the GL program is to keep students in school until graduation. Their incentive is a uniform kit that includes shoes and school supplies. In order to stay in the program, they are required to maintain a 75% average mark and their parents must be involved in the program. Each school has a facilitator, a volunteer from the community, that engages the families. They are the backbone success of the program.  There are 820 children in the program this year.


But do they serve coffee?

The state of Nariño is famous for its coffee and it was in this coffee growing environment where CAPD recently co-sponsored a filter construction workshop. The Fundacion Suyusama, co-sponsor,  has been working for decades in rural areas  near Pasto, to improve the lives and productivity of rural folk, through efficient wood stoves, drip irrigation, water system infrastructure, improved seeds, agricultural extension in all its facets, etc.

The Suyusama Foundation logo

Ivan Castro, our partner in FRPG, worked for Suyusame earlier on in his career and he was responsible for brining us together.  Previously a couple of Suyusama people attended the construction workshop in Pasto (previous blog) and it was good to have them involved again.  Bob did not appreciate the significant logistics challenges of having a filter construction workshop out in the countryside but Ivan and his friends in Suyusame made it happen.

Silvia’s demonstration farm

Suyusame leadership & FRPG

In the photo below, you will see a “chiva” which carries cargo and passengers on a daily route.  Without this service it would be very difficult to bring in supplies or send the harvest to markets. The chivas all have loud air horns and you can hear them coming from a distance starting at 6 am, so you can get to the road to flag them down. They are reliable but not comfortable nor fast.

The Chiva delivering our molds, picking up produce

This is the rainy season in Colombia and it had an impact on the training.  We fortunately found a partially finished house, and mixed concrete and filled the molds inside the house and on the porch.  Next morning the house was being used by a group of women preparing a lunch for a meeting in the adjacent church hall.  Our group rose to the occasion and moved the three 350-pound concrete and steel molds to a less crowded workspace by suspending it from a bamboo pole (see photo).  Do not be fooled by the sun in the photos.  Bob continually wished for rubber boots to complement his rain jacket but sadly had to put up with wet feet for 2 days.

How to feed 20 people country style

A welcome spot of sun with fantastic scenery. In this and other pictures you will see coffee bushes and the long slopes of the Volcano Galeras.

Sieving the sand for concrete mix

Assembling the molds

Greasing the molds

The group learned some theory, constructed 3 filter boxes as part of the workshop and learned how to install the filter media. Bob was mighty impressed with the group of 14 men and women.  Everyone jumped into action as soon as the word was given.  Without this proactive attitude the workshop would have been impossible. These men and women now know what is possible when considering improvement of water in the homes near where they play roles as servant leaders.

Compacting the concrete

Relocating the 350 lb beast

Taking the mold off

TENSE – will it work

Strangely enough, Bob did not get a coffee until he asked for it.


Custom wheelchairs meet extraordinary needs

Tatiana, one year ago.

You may recognize this picture of Tatiana from last year. We saw her, sitting on the ground, when we were delivering a stroller to a neighboring child. Tatiana was 12 years old in that picture and had never been to school. She also hadn’t had the medical care she deserved due to family complications.

This year, it was her turn to receive a wheelchair.

Tatiana, this year.

Whereas Tatiana didn’t say “boo” last year, this year she admitted that she would like to attend school. Let’s hope that it becomes a reality for her. Our partner in the wheelchair program in la Guajira is the Rotary Club Cerrejon. They will provide follow-up.

Josue poses with John, design engineer, in the grounds of his home.

Meet Josue, one of two children from the same family born with cerebral palsy. Besides his physical limitations, Josue also has limited sight and sees only shadows. Josue’s family has been displaced twice by the internal violence of Colombia. That means that TWICE the family lost all they possessed and had to start over again in another location. Can you imagine? At the moment, they are living in a very humble house as they try to get back on their feet. The picture below is of their bedroom.

Note the walls made of cloth bags used for corn and the dirt floor. This is the family’s bedroom.

I could be telling you a very tragic, no-hope sort of story, but that is not the case. This family has something special that is shared between them and that is love. It is so clearly manifested that it warmed my heart. I think they are a very special family. The Rotary Club Ronda de Sinu is in agreement and will help them acquire a permanent home. This club is our partner for the custom wheelchair program in Monteria. They provide follow-up and we (CAPD & ASODISPIE) provide annual maintenance of chairs previously provided.

Foam lining of a rather peculiar but effective chair seat.

John, the design engineer posing with Josue in the picture above, has a creative mind and loves to invent. And this is what he designed for Shirley, a child with a condition that leaves her bones vulnerable to multiple fractures. In her short life, Shirley has had 17 fractures. So, John devised a chair that would fit her body and protect her from further damage at the same time. It is a modified baby seat.

Shirley occupies her throne like a princess.

Shirley and her parents are very happy with the outcome of this new design. We hope it provides her and them with greater independence and security from further harm.

John and I made the rounds to Albania (la Guajira), then Monteria (Cordoba) and finally to Piedecuesta (Santander), providing new chairs, reviewing old ones, plus evaluating new children for the Program. In all, we made 31 visits to children living in rural and semi-urban areas. CAPD partners with ASODISPIE to construct these custom wheelchairs. CAPD shares the cost with our respective Rotary partners, in addition to ASODISPIE who held a fund-raising campaign for two children from Santander.

Thank you to all our partners and donors for this Program. The     children and their parents thank you.



FANDIC turns 20!

Congratulatory banner provided by CAPD

FANDIC celebrated its 20th birthday this year!! They marked the occasion with a special celebration for the volunteers and families, those who formed part of the family over the years.

Putting the icing on TWO large birthday cakes

Marlene, as the founder of FANDIC, provided an introductory welcome. Each family received a certificate of participation; the children danced and the mariachi band played. A good time was had by all.

Twenty years – it is hard to fathom that this fragile seed planted in a community rife with problems, could have flourished and continues to strengthen.

Fandic’s timeline, composed of pictures, helped us recall special moments.

This year, Fandic was chosen to represent the category of organizations working with children, for a campaign run by Vanguardia Liberal (a local newspaper) called “Bucaramanga without limits”. The organization with the most votes is provided with funds to improve their infrastructure. The photographers came and the families responded.

Forming a heart, a symbol of the campaign.

Those interested in voting for Fandic in this campaign, go to https://www.bucaramangasinlimites.com/

FANDIC was still in a celebratory mood when this picture was taken. There are 4 foreigners in this picture. Can you spot them? Good friends, Dan and Vio, came from Manitoba to visit, and Beatriz came from Madrid to volunteer for a month. Thanks for helping us celebrate!

Thank you to all FANDIC leaders and families for their participation over the years. You are the heart of this organization.



Amazing Volunteers

The month of October for Bob was a takeoff on “Around the World in 80 days”.  Over the course of the month, via buses and cars and planes, he managed to visit groups in 6 different states.  Never to be repeated, he says.  Each group was planning or executing a project to help their neighbours.  Of course, most of the projects were water filter related.

CAPD, as mentioned over the years, is involved in participatory development, so we go where we know people and we see enthusiasm and commitment, and these groups have demonstrated this.  With the improvement in security, city dwellers are increasingly reaching out to help rural families, whether the program involves water, education, health or economic activity. CAPD has provided molds and training in various related themes to each of the groups involved in water filter projects.

Bob is increasingly impressed with the commitment that Rotarians are showing in helping rural folk get safe water for drinking and cooking. These projects require a range of skills from administration, accounting, logistics, training, community relations, etc. and require hands on involvement at least a couple times a week and sometimes require flexibility to take time during the week.  Bob would like to acknowledge the volunteer service of Rotarians in Fonseca, Santa Marta, Barranquilla, , Montería, Ibagué and Bucaramanga.

The photos below show some of the volunteers in action.

Rotarian Harold Bonilla (white) and Rotarian Carlos (blue) inspecting the filter construction area.

Rotarians from Santa Marta chatting with some community leaders about the filters recently installed in the community.

Rotarians from Santa Marta visiting a home which received a filter 4 months prior.

Rotarians from Santa Marta on a Friday, pausing in the street of a village where filters were recently installed.

Volunteers from a Colombian foundation in the community of Oasis (Santa Marta) provide after school activities for children in a squatter’s community.

Saturday activities include lunch.

Rotarians delivering filters to a community near Monteria.

Community volunteers have received Tee shirts with the program name and logo and showed great dedication in making sure people got all the filter components to take to their homes.

In Ibague, Rotarian Maria Clara takes time off during the week to organize materials for a shipment to a village.

Near Ibague, Rotarians (turquoise) prepare to hand out filter components. They do have jobs but are able to take time off.

Bob, Rotarian Maria Clara and Program Coordinator visit a home to see how the family is doing with the filter.

Rotarian Mario, program director in Ibague, visits a family with a filter.

Rotarians from Nuevo Ibague and Armero Ibague were invited to help this community solve their water problems. On a weekday, we spent two hours on the highway and an hour bumping along a rough gravel road, just to arrive.

In appreciation of our Rotary volunteers, the back-bone of CAPD’s   filter projects,