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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.

SAVING – A HABIT FOR LIFE

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

TRANSFORMATION OF LIVES IN COLOMBIA

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.

Marlene

PARTNERSHIPS

You might recognize this couple, Ivan and Rocio, from previous blogs on the Safe Water Program. They are founders of FRPG – Fundación Red Proyecto Gente, or a network for people projects. Bob and I came to know them in 2014 when they took a chance, as well as a 4-hour bus ride, to meet Bob to talk about water and the BioSand filter. They were keenly interested in the topic of Household Water Treatment and Safe Storage (HWTS) and Ivan had some experience in this area. They wanted to somehow get involved and collaborate with the CAPD Safe Water Program.

A seed was planted that day that grew into a fruitful relationship, that eventually grew into a formal partnership with CAPD.  How did that come to be? It seems to me that it started with that conversation, grew under Bob’s mentorship, and gained strength through CAPD financial support for small HWTS projects.  An essential component, however, was their deep-seated desire to serve rural communities.

Skip to today, 2021:  FRPG has formal agreements with CAPD, implementing small projects, and with CAWST, providing training to the wider international network of CAWST clientele.  And when needed, provides training to Rotary funded HWTS project teams.  Presently, Ivan and Rocio are wrapping up a 6-weekly virtual webinar on RAM pumps and HWTS for rural areas sponsored by CAWST, RELX, a European NGO and AIDFI, a Philippine NGO.  CAPD is participating by sponsoring the professional time of Ivan and Rocio.  The webinar participants, numbering between 80 and 100 per session, are from Canada, Colombia, Honduras and Spain.  My oh my, how things have changed since our first meeting in 2014.

Ivan and Rocio, having had experience in implementing BioSand water filtration systems in communities through CAPD, are recognized by CAWST as experts in rural water systems and are helping to raise awareness of Colombian policies on rural water regulation. Having previously developed training modules for virtual forums, they are responsible for a large part of the webinar content. Their didactic materials are developed by CAWST (Calgary) who also serves as the host of the webinars.

The webinars are but a stepping-stone to their next initiative. They are currently developing a course on TANDAS (household water treatment and safe storage) for 3 Universities in Bolivia and exploring doing the same for universities and government entities in Colombia. 

I find this very exciting because it provides such a marvellous example of community development. One never knows where a conversation might lead.

CAPD would like to acknowledge and thank ALL its program and project leaders for their dedicated service to their respective communities. The majority have been with us for quite a long time. For them, it is not a job; it is their mission. They are indeed a treasure to be prized by both Colombians and Canadians.

Marlene

Update on Colombian Projects

Hello Friends,

We are incredibly thankful for the progress made in our three programs in Colombia despite the difficulties of this year. Going virtual has actually strengthened some program aspects. We have huge respect for our Colombian partners for their diligence in creating new modes of communicating and supporting their respective communities.

We also want to thank YOU, our friends and donors, for your faithful interest and support.

Green Light Program

Practicing good hygiene
Carlos and his parents simulating good hygiene practices with paint.

Carlos Augusto is a member of a Yes Club. In this picture he engages his parents, Sergio and Silvia, in a training module developed by the Investing Hope Foundation titled, “Entrepreneur in the time of Crisis”. This module teaches good hygiene practices when preparing any type of food and the contaminants that can be avoided through careful handwashing.

The objective of this simulation is to raise awareness of the importance of hygiene in maintaining health. The module also encourages Carlos and his parents to think of what they could do for others in the time of the pandemic.

By the way, Carlos Augusto won top prize for money saved and his club saved the most of all 4 Yes clubs in Santander.

Marcela used her savings to purchase this pot.

Marcela is a member of a Gema savings group. She typically makes and sells tamales to earn money. This year has been particularly difficult to save because the cost of ingredients has risen markedly. However, through great effort by buying only that which was strictly necessary, and the help of Father God (her words) she was able to save the most in her group. She decided to invest her savings to help grow her business so she bought a huge pot to produce more tamales.

Marcela had never saved money before starting with the Gema group and states that it has been a very positive experience. Her long-term goal is to save enough money to construct a house for her family and to afford to educate her children.

Safe Water Program

The Safe Water Program made some progress despite the pandemic stopping or postponing many community activities. For example, the Rotary Club of Ipiales was able to complete one project when lockdown was partially lifted.

Rotary Club of Ipiales training indigenous families prior to installation in their homes.
An installer finishing up an installation in the home.

Meanwhile, a lot of work was done to secure funding for next year’s projects. Five Rotary clubs have funding applications either approved or in progress. CAPD’s partners, Ivan and Rocio of FRPG, went virtual with training as well as connecting with prospective clients who have shown interest in developing projects.

CAPD and FRPG have strong connection with a Calgary-based BioSand Educational organization called CAWST who have developed a certification program for facilitators, constructors, and installers. FRPG has received various certifications and have certified 20-30 people. They also participated in a learning exchange with 15 participants held by Zoom.

FANDIC – Program of Inclusion

Yerly Carolina’s family didn’t miss a beat when they went virtual. Instead of visits to Fandic Centre for therapy, they created a space in the home where Yerly’s mother (who couldn’t work due to the pandemic) and her grandmother carried on with her therapy throughout the week as guided by the therapists involved in her care. The family reports that Yerly was very happy working at home. She improved in her communication with the family, made physical gains in postural control, and generally became more attentive in listening and observing.

Her caregivers also participated in the Women’s Support Network, a special on-line initiative of Fandic for 40 women and youth with intellectual disability that emphasized personal empowerment, leadership training, and self-esteem. These workshops were considered necessary because of the increased pressure on women to fulfil multiple roles within the family due to the lockdown and to help them deal with emotional tensions and communication issues arising within the family. The sessions, led by professionals volunteering their time, encouraged sharing by the participants that helped to strengthen social ties and establish friendships. The women also received T-shirts and caps that identified them as a woman’s support network, another self-esteem booster.  

FANDIC distributes groceries supplied by the Municipality to 40 families.

On that note of giving and receiving, we end our post with hearts full of gratitude that our program communities are healthy and safe.

Thanks be to God and to you, our supporters and friends.

Bob, Marlene and CAPD Board.

Update on Safe Water Program

The COVID-19 pandemic is still impacting Colombia in a forceful way. As of August 25th, the 7-day average for new infections is still approx. 10,000 per day with a potential decline in the coming days.  The 7-day average for deaths exceeds 300 per day. The various levels of governments have instituted strict quarantine laws, much stricter than here in Canada but intensive care beds are in short supply in most parts. 

CAPD safe water program has been severely impacted by the pandemic.  Our implementing partner Rotary clubs with projects underway have been shutdown for many months now to comply with the quarantine restrictions and to protect their members and contracted personnel who would normally be visiting communities, managing fabrication and transport of filter components, training beneficiaries in the villages, and physically monitoring use and maintenance of filters in each beneficiary home.  The personnel contracted to work in the various aspects mentioned, have been without income for several months now and many are struggling financially.

One Rotary club is about to finish its project by redirecting a small amount of remaining funds to the delivery of masks and handwashing materials to rural families.  The delivery has been a challenge as well.

Mario Correa with filters ready to be shipped to villages.

On a more positive note, during these months of isolation, there has been some progress.  Bob has worked with various entities to finance (via Rotary and CAPD) 3 filter projects which will start up once it is safe for personnel to do so.

Our good friend and filter champion Mario Correa in Ibague has received notice that the seeds he and his Rotary club planted over the last 2 years have taken root and his club will receive funding from a large corporate foundation to benefit 50 families with filters and training. Great news indeed.  We need more friends like him!

Ivan and Rocio in a pre-COVID training session.

Ivan and Rocio of FRPG (Fundacion Red Proyecto Gente) continue to work with CAPD. They have spent their quarantine time by organizing virtual presentations, improving training materials, and following up with entities interested in co-financing filter projects once the pandemic permits them to do so.  Two entities will proceed with co-financed projects involving FRPG and CAPD, once the pandemic permits.

In the past, FRPG has done many on-site training sessions for implementers but presently this has been put on hold.  Now, they are working on delivery of virtual training sessions, although some aspects still need physical sessions.

FRPG has also been working with approximately 10 community coordinators from existing projects to complete “Certificates of Qualification”.  This is a certification program, developed and promoted by CAWST (Centre for Affordable Water and Sanitation Technology), which validates the skills and knowledge of the coordinators.  This program is very attractive for coordinators who may be looking for work with other entities involved in household water treatment and who need some tangible evidence for their resume.  

We thank Ivan and Rocio of FRPG for their continued dedication and leadership in training and development, and our Rotary Partners for pursuing opportunities even during this difficult time.

Bob

Green Light response to the pandemic

Green Light Education Assistance Program

Over the last years, Green Light has grown from a program that rewards students who achieve a 75% average with uniforms, shoes and school supplies, to a program that encourages community projects. These projects are aimed at developing common community goals that lead to environmental and financial well-being. They also provide student and parent training in subjects such as substance abuse, inter-family relationships, entrepreneurship and saving.  The latter two subjects are prepared by Investing Hope Foundation (IHF) and delivered by Green Light Facilitators and Coordinators.

The school year started mid-January allowing the uniform and school kits to be delivered pre-COVID to 395 students in Santander and 174 students in Guajira. But activity on community projects came to an abrupt halt in March with the onset of lockdown in Colombia.  

The first post-lock down action was to provide food packages to the families involved in the program.

Soon, the Savings and Entrepreneurship programs got up and running using a combination of virtual and face-to-face meetings. Virtual training sessions on budgeting were provided to Gema Savings groups (20 in Santander and a pilot group in Guajira). To date these groups have saved 41.572.700 COP or $14,560 CAD.

The students were likewise engaged in entrepreneurship activities. Pre-COVID they sold candy, cake, and raffles.

Those activities have largely been suspended but virtual training modules continue to be delivered on topics such as self-care during COVID-19 and the value of entrepreneurship. The savings and entrepreneurship groups will continue until the end of October.

As in Canada, virtual education is challenging due to many factors. The Green Light program is currently engaged in surveying students to better understand their situation. Our goal is to find supportive strategies to help our students reach their academic goals despite the pandemic.

A bouquet to Green Light Facilitators and Coordinators who are leading their communities through difficult times by staying in contact with students and families, offering virtual training, and organizing activities within the pandemic guidelines. Thanks to the IHF for continuing to roll out their training modules and for their oversight through audits.  

We are very thankful that Green Light families are infection-free to date.

Marlene

CAPD programs during COVID 19

Hello Everyone,

As Colombia learns to deal with the shock of the pandemic, new ways of providing service while keeping vulnerable populations safe are created. FANDIC is a case in point.

The Bucaramanga municipality contracted FANDIC to provide service to 72 vulnerable children and their families. FANDIC developed home programs designed to meet the general needs of those children enrolled in school (26%), those who are independent, semi-independent, and dependent.

Home program instruction kits are provided to the families on a weekly basis. Professionals (occupational therapist, physiotherapist and 2 psychologists) make up the kits and provide individual interventions by telephone, WhatsApp, zoom or whatever media the family prefers.

The parent or caregiver uses the instruction kits to provide therapy to their child with the positive result that parents are participating even more than before COVID. It is, in effect, a powerful example of the effectiveness of empowering families to take charge while providing backup professional assistance.     

This method of working has been a huge adjustment for everyone and certainly more work for professionals and staff. But is has been worth it. Parents are compliant and thankful to have the support of FANDIC. The kits are working well as well as virtual counselling by professionals. The evidence is in their feedback and videos sent of their home treatment sessions.

Please have a look at this short video made by FANDIC about a month ago. English subtitles are posted on the pictures: https://www.dropbox.com/s/04cfb7t1zjyw9jz/VID-20200727-english.mp4?dl=0

It is our intention to provide you, our friends and donors, information on how our programs are coping during the pandemic. Bob and I have suspended our plans to make personal visits until some indeterminate time in the future.    

Thanks for your interest and support,

Marlene

Custom wheelchairs change lives

Yorcelis with Martha, Coordinator in La Guajira, her mother and John, the engineer.

Yorcelis was simply overjoyed to receive her new chair. She made that quite clear from the moment she locked eyes on it. You can tell by the picture that her house is surrounded by sand; in fact, it is separated from the main highway by a sand road of 12 km. This new chair makes life easier for her and her mother to go to medical appointments.

Alina with Juan Jose in Monteria.

Not all the chairs we provide are new. Many are recycled and refurbished. The chair above has had at least 4 different occupants and is our favourite for small children of 3-4 years.

Members of the Rotary club Ronda del Sinu in Monteria and Marlene pose with Johan in his newly refurbished stroller.

It is a team effort. The local Rotary clubs identify the children to be evaluated and provide all the logistical work. Marlene from CAPD connects the Rotarians with the team at Asodispie plus brings experience and therapeutic skills to the project.

Gerbi with his mother in La Guajira. His chair is a new one to meet his current needs.

The short time I spend with families, gives me an tiny insight into their lives. I meet parents, mostly mothers, some of whom are foster mothers of children abandoned due to their disability. I see the love and care these children receive and realize that they are indeed a gift because our interaction with them helps us to become more human.

I have visited Gerbi and his mother for 4 years. I feel his mother and I connect in a way that is special to me. That connection has a history that speaks of listening, solving issues together, empathy and love. It is in our eyes and in our hearts.

This project is jointly financed by CAPD and our partners, Rotary Club Ronda del Sinu of Monteria, Rotary Foundation Manos Solidarias of Cerrejon, and by Asodispie in Santander. Our technical team in Asodispie consists of John (engineer), Jorge (technician) and Oscar (treasurer).

Thank you to all who have participated with your interest and donations.

Marlene