Rural home visit – Hugo Andres

We finally reached the home of Hugo Andres and his grandparents at the end of a tortuous road, and there he was, like a pop-up, at our car window, welcoming us to his home. He had been waiting for us.

Hugo Andres shares a smile with Marlene.

Hugo Andres is an amiable 23-year-old with an intellectual disability. He lives on a cacao farm of one-half hectare with his aging grandparents, Mery and Hugo, in a barrio called La Sabana. Hugo Andres loves his life on the farm. He helps his grandparents with the cacao farm but needs direction for each step.

His grandparents are concerned about what will happen to Hugo Andres once they pass on. They want him to have the cacao farm, but at this point, he can’t manage it on his own. Another concern is that Hugo Andres doesn’t know about money – the denominations, how to make change, how to budget etc. He will have help from neighbours, but there is a lot to learn if he will be able to live independently on the farm.

Olguita with Hugo in the midst of the cacao farm.

Hugo kindly showed Olguita and me around his farm while therapists worked with Hugo Andres indoors. He showed us part of the cacao growing process and talked about Hugo Andres. He looks after himself very well. He studied up to grade 2 in school, goes to the country store to buy items for the house, gets along with everyone and has lots of friends. But he has never had any special attention of any kind until now and his grandfather is worried. Hugo Andres has been with Fandic for five months. There is opportunity, but time is short.

The little walk through the farm was very helpful in giving Olguita thoughts about a possible 3-point therapy plan which she discussed with Hugo. The plan requires up-front work on the part of the therapists to learn the process of cacao farming and to represent it in picture form; then to go over it repeatedly with Hugo Andres until he learns it. Secondly, to give him a plot of land as a practice plot but also a plot over which he will have ownership. The last point in the plan is to learn money management, something that Fandic already includes in their therapy plan for other adolescents.

Hugo Andres poses with his grandmother, Mery, and his grandfather, Hugo.

I sensed the love in this family. The grandparents want their grandson to succeed. They want him to have a future. But they have not had the orientation required to achieve this goal until now. With God’s help and with that of Fandic, their goal will be realized.

FANDIC Rural Program wins first prize

Fandic has now grown to three sites: Fandic North (the traditional site), Fandic Rural program (added last year), and Fandic South (added this year). They have three separate therapy teams for the three programs.

A competition is held by the Municipal Disability Program on an annual basis to display the work done by organizations receiving municipal contracts. The presentations are judged, and the news is that Fandic’s presentation of the rural program won first prize!

Fandic Rural team display their prize certificate.

Therapists in the rural program travel one to two hours over unpaved roads to reach 3-4 families. Because the roads are inappropriate for the van, Fandic uses a rented car. Therapist of the various professions rotate through so each family receives attention from each profession. There are 30 families in the rural program, all identified by the Municipal Disability Program as needing attention. The therapists in the rural program speak of their love for this program as do the families who benefit.

The winning video is of a girl called Salome. She is five years old, has a physical disability and is in preschool. In the video, Salome engages in activities with various professionals.

Congratulations to Fandic Rural program!

Multi-sectoral cooperation brings water filters to isolated areas

Cooperation Colombian and Canadian organizations plus local leadership are all important as the picture below exemplifies. The project presented below was a pilot project funded by CAPD, Rotary clubs and the Catholic Christian Institute for Farmer Promotion for approximately 60 filters this year.

You will recognize Bob from CAPD. On his left is Elver Vargas from the Department of Health of Santander who came along to learn more about the safe water initiative. Ivan Castro, FRPG project implementer, stands next to Luis Antonio Durán, President of the Water Board for the village of Mérida and community representative to the Board of ICPROC or Christian Institute for Farmer Promotion. On the far right are Alirio Medina, filter installer, and his wife, Doña María, who has a filter in her home.

Some of the houses with filters were very remote requiring a walk in mountainous and forested areas.

Bob comments that running a filter project in the mountains makes filter installation and follow-up that much more difficult. In fact, some of the terrain was so mountainous that the best way to deliver filters was through a cable as seen in the video below.

Elver, as his role in the Secretariat of Health for Santander, is keenly interested in these filters and listens intently to Ivan’s explanations. Ivan would like to link the Secretariat in the second phase of the project to do water testing as part of the implementation of Colombia’s rural water policy.

Personal testimony of the impact of the filter on family life is provided by Doña María.
Yasmin and Sergio, homeowners of a filter, talk about using unfiltered water before and the difference the filter has made. Elver speaks about the importance involving multi-sector organizations such as churches, Community Action Boards, Aqueduct Boards, Rotary Clubs and FRPG, among others.

There is a plan afoot to to expand the number of beneficiaries, implementing 30 additional filters in other villages of the municipality of San Vicente de Chucurí and 45 more in the rural area of the municipality of Carmen de Chucurí. To this end, a meeting with the Bishop of the Diocese of Barrancabermeja and Father Jairo Alberto Rave, the Director of ICPROC, was held.

The team poses at the end of the meeting. From left to right they are, María Isabel (Community Coordinator and ICPROC official), Iván Castro (FRPG Co-Director and Project Coordinator), Elver Vargas (Representative Departmental Secretary of Health of Santander), Marlene Wiens (CAPD Representative), Father Jairo Alberto Rave (Director of ICPROC), Bob Wiens (CAPD Representative and Calgary Stampede Rotary Club  Park), and Luis Antonio Durán (President of the JAC and Representative of the community on the ICPROC Board of Directors).

Isidoro, The Chocolate Man

Isidoro Caballero with Sara his salesperson on the left, and Claudia his chocolatier on the right.

Some of you may remember the blog written in May1, 2018 about Isidoro, a man with vision. His business is Chocolates Caballero located in San Vincente de Chucurí, Santander. He has made a lot of progress since 2018. His products are now registered with the Colombian National Institute for Drug and Food Surveillance IMVIMA and being sold to distributors, chocolatiers, and supermarkets, as well as to local customers. My favourite products are the ones held by Isidoro – powdered chocolate and chocolate in balls, both for making hot chocolate.

I admire Isidoro because of his resolve to look for solutions. He did not give up despite setbacks such as the pandemic that killed business in his previous store front. His present location is next to the main plaza and is shared with two other complimentary businesses thus reducing operational costs.

Isidoro, Bob, and Marlene in front of a 3-D painting of a cocoa bean painted on his factory wall.

Isidoro is in the process of acquiring a “Green Product” designation and has made connections with larger companies to help him to market his product.

As to sustainability, Isidoro welcomes his two daughters, Marcela and Gennifer, to take on roles as business administrator and financial manager.

Please read the blog posted on May 1, 2018, to learn more about Isidoro’s early life and how he overcame the odds.

Promotional Details:

Isidoro Caballero Arenas – Gerente

Cra. 27 No. 7-03 – Yariguies 2

315 204 4086 – 316 694 1979

Facebook: tienda de chocolates caballero

Impact of the Green Light Program

Meet Briceida and Karol, a mother and daughter team.

Briceida became a facilitator for Green Light when Karol was 10 years old and in grade five. The year was 2010, the first year of the program. Even though the two available spots in the program went to her younger sisters, Karol was greatly influenced by the program’s training on her mother.

Her mother became her role model. She witnessed how the training her mother received as facilitator empowered her and how she became more self-confident. Karol says that her mom changed her way of thinking and the way in which she viewed the world. As a facilitator, her mother was able to engage the part of her that always wanted to be a teacher. She felt fulfilled by her work with students, families, and community.  

Karol began working toward her own future at age 15 with a part-time job. She says she admired Rocio, the Green Light Coordinator, and the work Rocio was doing with the community. She realized that she also wanted to work with the community.

Karol is now in her last semester of Social Work at the Santander Industrial University (UIS) and is completing her practice requirements with the Green Light program in her home community of Los Santos. Her role is to provide community training in the various projects and to strengthen the facilitators through supportive activities. Her specific project is to bring awareness to environmental issues such as protection of water sources and recuperation of public spaces such as schools. Her goal is to follow in Rocio’s footsteps and work with communities following university graduation.

This story is just one example of the impact the Green Light program has on students, facilitators, and families.  

Cleaning up on plastic waste

The Green Light Program is committed to eliminating plastic and encouraging environmental sustainability of communities. This project is a key initiative in rural communities of the municipality of Los Santos and families with disabilities in Bucaramanga. In five months, 14 communities, with the cooperation of CAPD, the Municipality of Los Santos, the Bottles of Love Foundation, and the center of collection, delivered 579.4 kilos of bottles full of plastic and 388 kilos of bottle caps. They continue to work with heart and effort.

This community is just one of the 14 communities that participated in the project.

CAPD fully supports the efforts of Green Light to draw awareness to environmental sustainability through projects such as recycling waste and tree planting.

Thanks to these young people who put in the effort!


A month in the life of a water filter project

The following blog will provide a pictorial representation of one aspect of a typical water filter project as reported by our partners, Ivan and Rocio from Fundación Red Proyecto Gente.

Preliminary to any project, contact is made with possible co-partners in the zone. In the month of March, Ivan and Rocio met with an organization called SEPAS – San Gil, a Pastoral Social organization, to plan a pilot project in which 60 families from Santander would be served. The training workshop was held on March 11 & 12 for 19 representatives of 16 parishes. Training included theoretical plus practical components.

Sifting sand is hard work!
Another team mixes gravel with cement powder and water to make concrete.
The concrete is poured into a mold and given time to dry. This photo shows the process of removing the mold from the concrete filter box.

Throughout the month of March, Ivan and Rocio visited 6 crushers and/or quarries to find appropriate materials for concrete. They chose gravel from one and sand from another.

The group chose a person to be in charge of construction of 60 filter boxes and a site for construction was provided by SEPAS – Pastoral Social de San Gil.
Next the ground for construction of the filter box is prepared.
Gravel and sand is delivered to the construction site.
Gravel is graded and sand is sifted for filter box construction.
Filter boxes are left full of water for 7 days and then examined for defects and leaks.

In parallel with this process, installers, community coordinators and beneficiary families are selected and trained. As well, filter media materials are ordered. In conclusion, filter box training and construction is an important step but not the only one in the process of providing safe water to communities.

This pilot project was funded by the Rotary Club of Calgary at Stampede Park in collaboration with CAPD.


Is it possible to save in Colombia? For communities depending on a meager harvest that satisfies only basic needs? Or for those who live on a day-to-day basis? It should be impossible! However, the Green Light program is committed to achieving it.

Our savings and entrepreneurship project is based on the experiential methodology patented by the Investing Hope Foundation, whose purpose is to train leaders in financial education by promoting the culture of savings, and guiding children and youth to make clear goals towards their life project.

Saving in the midst of the socioeconomic situation generated by the Sars2 COVID 19 pandemic was quite a challenge. The goal for 2021 was to consolidate the savings groups. There were 27 groups of adults who saved $114,000,000 pesos or $36,000 CAD and 22 groups of children, who saved $19,000,000 pesos or $6,000 CAD. Please note that 97% of the groups live in rural areas and indigenous communities. Three inspiring stories will be shared.

Below is an inspiring story from Santander. The family of Erik and Zarit live relatively close to each other. They were motivated by their mothers and grandmother who began saving in 2019 and formed a saving habit. Today the whole family saves.

Cousins, Erik 14 (extreme right) and Zarit 13 (extreme left), joined a savings group for the first time and they were the winners for most saved. Thanks to their participation in the Hope for Tomorrow group, they met their goal and bought a computer that allows them to meet their academic requirements. With weekly sales of candy skewers, peanuts, jellies, empanadas, and other sales, they saved $980,000 pesos or $309 CAD. Erik and Zarit are the secretary and president of the committee that directs the group and as such, they encouraged their peers to pursue their dreams saving $3,351,000 pesos or $1,060 CAD in total.

Another inspiring story comes from Guajira. Martha is an indigenous girl who aims to build a future with her sisters and sees, in the savings project, an opportunity to achieve it. She must, however, overcome many challenges including walking long distances to offer their products, and to refrain from dipping into earnings to satisfy a basic need.

Martha and her sisters managed to save $282,000 pesos or $89.00 CAD through weekly activities such as selling bread, sweets, small market combos, and other items. These savings were invested in two goats. Their success motivates them to reach their dream of saving enough to go to university. For 11-year-old Martha and her sisters, 14 and 9 years old, it was their first time in a savings group, and although the amount seems small, it was quite a challenge when considering the economic conditions of the family and the limited opportunities offered in that area.

Martha has 9 siblings. She is number 5 and lives with her parents and her 7 siblings. She and her two sisters agreed to save in the Achieve More savings group in their community called New Hope. She served as secretary of the savings committee.

Martha is characterized as a very committed and responsible girl, not only with her education but also with the project.

Another aspect of the program in Santander and Guajira, is small loans for those who are entrepreneurs and want to improve their business. Receiving loans from the savings groups frees them from the so-called informal “drop by drop” loans with interest of up to 10% monthly, in which they become trapped without the possibility of getting out of said debts.

Erlider (below), from Guajira, participated in the savings project for adults and was one of the loan beneficiaries to improve his business.

Erlider works for the Rotary Foundation Hands in Solidarity charity and is also part of the Initiating the Future group. He has a small business of buying and selling cheese in the municipality of Albania. He received a small loan of 500,000 pesos or $158.00 CAD with extremely low interest from the group’s savings account, with which he was able to expand his business. He is happy and grateful to the program.

Erlider responsibly reimbursed the loan with interest in the stipulated length of time. He saved $450,000 pesos or $142.00 CAD, which he invested in his business. He is grateful because the project freed him from taking high-interest loans.

THANK YOU to those who collaborate directly or indirectly so we can reach more families and encourage the habit of saving in vulnerable communities. Our goal is to continue learning and transforming lives.

Rocío Núñez Espinel, National Coordinador


The Green Light program reaches the lives of children and young people in rural communities of Santander and Guajira, offering hope and transforming lives.

It has been possible to continue with the projects during the pandemic in 2021 as the stories below will contest.

Environmental project

The project aims to raise awareness about care of the environment. One of the goals is to implement two training campaigns in environmental leadership with participating children, young people, and facilitators, and to engage in a planting campaign within 16 communities. Here are some stories shared.

The Campaign “Sow a tree, take care of the earth” in Santander. More than 350 students planted trees in April in 16 communities in Santander, including 14 in the rural area of the municipality of Los Santos. Some chose fruit trees and medicinal bushes; others chose to protect water sources and gardens.

Karol Yirley is 16 years old and is in the 11th grade at La Laguna school. She hopes to continue studying after graduation but is still not sure that she wants to study. However, she aspires to win one of the scholarships offered by the state for young people like her, to win a scholarship for university studies. She lives in the village of Regadero with her parents and a younger sister. She has participated in the Program since she was in 3rd grade and has been a beneficiary for 9 years. Her family is committed to her education and participation in the program. Karol Yirley is saving in the ‘Yes’ savings and entrepreneurship project and her mother participates in the activities of the women’s empowerment project. Karol Yirley says “I am going to take care of this tree until it is strong and no longer needs my care.

“Training in Environmental Education: During August, the facilitators representing rural communities of Los Santos in Santander, began training in environmental leadership with the organization CIDEMOS, the entity in charge of the Sogamoso Reservoir. The plan is for them to plant trees that protect the water in the streams flowing through some communities. Plants were delivered in September with the idea of having the facilitators work with children to start a nursery that will provide trees for planting in each community.

Campaign to plant trees in Guajira

In Guajira, an average of 500 trees were delivered for planting in the communities of Jurimakal and Nuevo Amanecer. Unfortunately, the delivery was made during dry season and few trees managed to survive. In addition, they were not fenced, and the goats being raised by families ate them. This situation was a learning experience. Now, seedbeds are being made with the proper enclosure for another delivery of trees during the rainy season.

Ariadne is from the Jurimakal community. She is 12 years old and in grade 5 in her community school. She has been a beneficiary of the program for 2 years.

This is one of the few trees that managed to survive the inclement climate and drought. She, with the help of her uncle José Ángel, installed a small drip system and this allowed the little tree to survive.

Campaign to collect recyclables

The Bottle Cap Collection Campaign, “I can also help others”. (Note: bottle caps are collected for donation to an entity that provides assistance to families.) Sixteen communities participated in the campaign, competing among themselves to receive the prize, a special snack for them and their friends at the end of the school year. The students in Espinal Bajo are highly motivated as demonstrated by the story of Joan Manuel.

Joan Manuel is motivated to collect bottle caps and win the end of year farewell snack. He is also motivated knowing he can help another child through his efforts. Joan is turning 9 years old. He studies at the Laguna school in the Espinal Bajo village. He is in 4th grade and has been in the Program for 3 years. His brother, José Alfredo, was in the Program for 6 years and is now in the second semester studying “environmental resources technology” after receiving a government ‘Generation E’ scholarship for higher education.

Yolibeth lives in the community of San José. She is 13 years old, in 7th grade and the second of six siblings, two of whom also benefit from the Program. She is very active in the recycling project.

Despite the fact that these communities have little access to the purchase of soft drinks, they with friends and neighbors, have carried out the campaign to collect bottle caps to donate or to help one of the children of the community acquire a school kit.

These stories are just a few examples of how Green Light projects are changing the lives of students and their families.

Rocio Nuñez

Green Light Program Coordinator

FANDIC Centre Opens

A 2021 contract with the Bucaramanga Municipal Government signals change. Fandic now provides in-person services albeit with masks and precautions in place

Fandic provides therapies for 56 families in the urban centre. The pictures above and below show the evaluation of children in the FANDIC Centre. Children receive therapy in key areas such as occupational, speech and physical therapy, and psychology.

Also, for the first time ever, FANDIC is responsible for rehabilitation for 30 families in the rural sector.

Details are recorded in first home visit to a rural home. These families are on the government’s roster and signal an expansion of FANDIC’s coverage.

Leaders, Olga Lucia and Bryanda, are very happy to be using the FANDIC Centre on a full-time basis again. They welcome the expansion of services and their new therapy team, who received preliminary training as pictured below.

The team received training in Community Based Rehabilitation (CBR). CBR is a WHO health and rehabilitation strategy that emphasizes rights and opportunities for people with disability through education and awareness at all levels – family, community, and government.
FANDIC proudly presents its professional team for 2021.

CAPD congratulates FANDIC on moving through a difficult time and embracing new challenges. We wish them well as they live out their mission to provide integrated services and opportunities for children with disability and their families.