The muncipality of Purnia is tucked in a valley between the mountains of the Mesa de los Santos. It is a fertile agricultural zone with crops such as tomato, peppers, corn, tobacco, maracuja and pineapple.
We added 24 students from this school to our Green Light Education Assistance program this year. The school is rather old, but apparently a new one is on the drawing board.
Rocio, Martha and I are here for a meeting with the parents and some of the students. We met our new facilitator, Ana Edilia, and were very impressed with her leadership. She really has those parents and students motivated!
And then there are the young ones…our future and still so cute.
You may remember that I posted photos of ASODISPIE when under construction last year. Well, I thought you might like to see the finished product. It is truly a marvel and they are so proud of this accomplishment. Enjoy the pictures. Marlene
I look back over the years that CAPD has been in Colombia and marvel at the transitions that have occurred. As the years have progressed, so have the roles that CAPD has played in relation to our partners. Take, for example, FANDIC, our first partner. Whereas CAPD served as a mentor for FANDIC in their infancy and adolescence, so FANDIC now assumes that role for others. CAPD fades while FANDIC gains strength. They have become the multipliers.
I mentioned in the last blog that Martha, the social worker who was my guide and assistant in La Guajira, was to visit us in Bucaramanga. That 3-day visit was full of meetings and encounters that opened up a world of knowledge and experience that will be useful to her and others in La Guajira.
Olga, the President of FANDIC, is a major resource in Community Based Rehabilitation, a World Health Organization strategy for community development that includes people with disabilities. She provided Martha with the basis of how to proceed in helping the children we visited in La Guajira to receive the type of assistance they require.
From Oscar of ASODISPIE Martha heard about the humble beginnings of people with disability getting together, then forming an association that met in garages and homes until they were able to acquire the property from which they now run their programs. Amazing and what an example of persistence!
And with Rocio we traveled to meet with parents and students in the Education Assistance program in rural zones. She saw Rocio’s approach with parents and how parents responded; she heard of difficulties in school but also expressions of commitment. Rocio provided a base of knowledge and experience to help her grow the program in La Guajira.
We are looking forward to facilitating stronger ties between our partners in Bucaramanga and in La Guajira. For this is sustainability in the making.
It is time I gave you an update on CAPD programs in Colombia. Keep reading to learn about my activities during my first days in Colombia.
Let’s start in Pereira, located in the coffee zone. Fortunately, the rains came while I was there so the climate was relatively cool.Â The reason for my visit was to monitor the Green Light Education Assistance program that provided 165 uniforms and shoes to students from four schools in this year. Â The students must maintain a 75% average to remain in the program.Â I invited Rocio, the Coordinator of the program in Santander, to come to Pereira to provide training to Gilma, the Coordinator in the zone, and the facilitators of the schools. The students in the photo below were also present at the meeting and happy to show off their new uniforms.
Meetings between Coordinators helps CAPD to maintain uniformity in the development and results of the program. Our goal is to keep the students in the program until they graduate. Soon, the Coordinator from our new program in La Guajira, Martha, will be in Bucaramanga to receive an orientation on program philosophy and policies from Rocio. More on this subject later on.
Then I went to La Guajira to evaluate 11 children with disability for their suitability for our adapted stroller. The majority of these children belong to the Wayuu native peoples who due to factors such as isolation, have not received the medical or therapeutic assistance they deserve. But even children living in the towns lack access to therapy. From my point of view, it is tragic to see children developing deformities that could be prevented. I hope to introduce change in this situation, at least for some, but that will require time and commitment from various sectors.
First, I’d like to show you the Wayuu way of life. The majority live in rancherias established by a family clan. Above are photos of a typical house, a shaded meeting place for guests, and a corral for goats.Â La Guajira is a semi-arid state that hasn’t had rain for one year.
I went to La Guajira upon invitation of the Rotary Club of Cerrejon, composed of employees of a huge coal mine (35 km long and 2 km wide). Martha, the Social Worker in charge of the Foundation’s programs, is also the Coordinator of our new Green Light program in this region. The photos above are of three sisters in their school uniforms. The shoes merited a special photo because they are unique. Both the uniform and shoes are typical Wayuu dress for women.
Martha and I evaluated 11 children with disability. This wasn’t easy considering the difficult rural roads we had to travel to reach distant homes. After the first couple of children, Martha took over the evaluation, asking the questions and taking measurements.Â She will complete the evaluations in this region from now on. Not all of the children need a stroller. Nely, for example, needs a different kind of device that strengthens her ability to walk by herself. All need therapy but that will be more difficult to achieve. I have been speaking of physical issues, which are relatively easy to deal with compared to some of the other challenges faced by these children.
Then there is Yenis, who has cerebral palsy.Â It was a amazing to see the strong link between her and her father. When I heard him speak of the joy that Yenis brought to his life, I was reminded of Jean Vanier’s comment that living with people with disability makes us more human.Â Yenis has very strong muscle tone that doesn’t permit her to sit, and sit she must if she is to have a stroller. I worked quite hard to get her into the position you see below. I taught her father to sit her on his lap with her knees bent, a position that controls her tone, so she can practice to raise her head. Note that her head is down when she is sitting with me, but with her father’s motivation, she could raise her head and keep it up for the count of 10. Well done!
Finally, I would like to introduce you to Lorfina and Alejandro, both Rotarians who were with us on the second day. I would like to thank them as well as all the members of their club, who work incredibly hard to improve the quality of life of vulnerable people in their region.Â As they happily explain, “There is lots to do”.