Safe Water Project in Ipiales

As part of the CAPD safe water program, Bob visits Rotary clubs in Colombia that are doing filter projects, mostly funded by Global Grants from The Rotary Foundation.  Something new that CAPD started in 2018 is a training program for community volunteers who live among the families receiving water filters.  These volunteers help the Rotary Community Coordinator in organizing community meetings, solve simple problems, and answer families’ questions when the Rotarians or the Community Coordinator is not there.  The initial training is a 2-day workshop at the beginning of the project with a follow-up refresher one year after the project gets underway.  Ivan Castro and Rocio Robayo have been delivering this training, sometimes at CAPD expense and sometimes at the Rotary project expense.

Ivan and Rocio, trainers and facilitators of the Safe Water Program.

Ivan, Rocio and I delivered such training in Ipiales in late 2018, , a city of 140,000, located right on the Ecuador border.  The area is at very high altitude (more than 3,000 meters) so it is cold, very fertile and gets lots of rain.  There are many small landholders who grow crops such as potatoes, broccoli and many other vegetables, within sight of the city.

Potato field, one example of crops in this zone.

The refresher training started off in an indigenous community called “12 de Octubre” where the 3 of us divided into separate groups, each including a Community Volunteer. Each group visited 4-5 homes and noted the physical aspects of the filters, familial processes and volunteer processes.  Later we reviewed our observations and found that the only problems encountered were the lack of a chlorine dropper bottle and incorrect outlet tube lengths .

Group members included Bob, Evan and Rocio, Rotarians from the Ipiales club and Community Volunteers.
Community volunteers are not paid but receive a shirt and a book bag with the program logo among other perks.

This tour and discussion was followed by a massive lunch at 10 am in the morning – they called it a light refreshment. We were in BIG TROUBLE because we knew the community in Guacuan, the next stop, was preparing a huge lunch for the entire community.

In Colombian culture one should shake hands with everyone, and I must say, it took a while.
Bob looked in a few pots and the ladies had been busy – a big pot of Sancocho soup, a pot with 3 kg of rice, another pot of boiled potatoes, and a monster pot of chopped up chicken.

Of course, as guests, we got the biggest portions.  Bob managed the soup but his main plate went back to community members who are more than happy to take leftovers home. 

Next came the speeches and photo opportunities with children, individual families and everyone together

Bob addressing the community.

The feedback from families using the filters was very gratifying.  Biological contamination in this area is extreme and people had been boiling their water with natural gas or wood in the past.  This was no longer necessary with the filters – and the water tasted great!

Bob visits with children from the community.

A couple stories.  Rumour has it that men prefer to drink filtered water after a night of hard drinking, because they wake up in the morning without a tummy ache.  Another gentleman stated that he preferred filtered water when making his guarapo (home brew) because it was sweeter. To each his own! 

Fernando, a 5-year old.

For me the most touching story was this little boy Fernando who, at 5 years, is small for his age. His mother is a conscientious Community Volunteer in the sector ’12 de Octubre’.  Because we were squished in the truck Fernando rode on my lap in the front seat.  As we were passing the Hospital in Ipiales, he pointed it out.  At 5 years of age he knew it well.  He and his mother had visited there several times when he had acute diarrhea. Now that they have a filter, they no longer need to visit the hospital to be treated for diarrhea.

How gratifying!


What does it take to save?

How much do you need to save in order to do a home renovation such as putting a tile floor into your house? Or to send your son or daughter to university? To pay for those orthodontic treatments your child needs?

All these were saving goals mentioned by members of the GEMA savings group. This program is sponsored by the Investing Hope Foundation (IHF) and facilitated by the Green Light Education Assistance program.

Members wrote 3 saving goals, each on a separate paper. The savings goals were then categorized. Goal categories were: Home improvements, travel, education of their children, purchases such as a camera, to pay for emergencies, to start a business.

Saving isn’t a habit for these women but nevertheless they have been doing it since June. There are 17 GEMA groups in Santander, most in rural areas. Membership ranges from 13 – 18 members per group. They meet once a month, but are required to save a minimum of 3000 pesos ($1.40 CAD) each week. From June to September they saved a total of 21,600,000 COP or roughly $10,000 CAD.

Rocio teaches them a method to calculate the amount they need to save on a monthly and weekly basis to reach their goal(s) using a spread sheet.

Materials such as a booklet on saving and calculators were provided by the IHF. They also provide training to Rocio who in turn, trains group facilitators. IHF also provides oversight to the program three times per year.

Members from Los Teres GEMA group getting down to work on their savings spread sheet.
This member was clear on her goal. She wanted to save 300,000 pesos ($140) in 6 months to purchase 20 chickens, which meant saving 12,500 ($5.80) per week.

Some members found the spread sheet exercise easy but for others it was a new experience. Many did not have a clear savings goal or know how much their goals would cost. BUT they helped each other and, in the end, everyone was able to do the exercise.

I was very curious to know how people with no saving culture managed to save. The two women above provide examples but the majority of the members save by spending less. I was astonished when they admitted that it was easy to save. However, they had not been saving on a regular basis. Instead they had been scraping money together by one means or the other to meet emergency expenses. Stressful!

It is our hope that the GEMA groups will encourage members to continue to save and to invest their savings in small business ventures. Our goal and their goal? To improve quality of life for themselves and their children.


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.