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.