I’m sitting here in our staff house right in the heart of Barranquilla, Colombia, barely able to contain my excitement for the arrival of our participants later this week. We have completed staff training and are hard at work planning briefing and finishing up planning for our program this summer.
This past week was definitely the most exciting we have had thus far. Finally having settled into the bustle of the city, we were finally ready to take our AMIGOS training to the field. After dividing the communities between Eric, my fellow supervisor, and myself, we spent the night in each community getting to know each of the host families, talking with our partner agencies, and meeting community members.
Monday morning I prepared my bag and caught a bus to El Tesoro in Malambo. Watching the cityscape change from the bus window, I marveled at how much each municipality changes in such a short time span. Each barrio has its own pulse, its own vibrancy and personality. I got off the bus and wandered through the neighborhood. The colorful houses lining the streets and the families sitting on their porches talking completely distracted me from the heat and sweat dripping down my face—which is quite a feat, considering it has been in the nineties most days here. Our partner agency, El ACESCO, is nestled in a back corner of the neighborhood, but despite its location, it is brimming with life. I met with our contacts there and discussed ideas they have for us this summer. The staff is truly intent on bettering the lives of their students, and the project is guaranteed to be muy chevere (awesome). I spend a good two hours sitting at the entrance after my meeting, just watching students play games after school before piling into moto-taxis to return home. It is impossible to enter the school and not see the very real changes the school is making in the community, changes that we, AMIGOS, get to be a part of.
Lucky for us, our association with El Acesco goes even deeper. Two of our host families, one in El Tesoro and one in Villa Esperanza, have members who work there. One of them was even a student there herself, who received a scholarship from the school to attend Universidad del Norte. Now graduated, she teaches there herself, in an effort to give back to the foundation that provided her with an otherwise unattainable opportunity. Each host family I visited welcomed me with open arms, making me feel like one of the family. I ate amazing food at their houses, and watched the sun set from their patios and had some truly inspiring conversations. Every placement will have their own very distinct experience, and the opportunity to view the community from different perspectives.
Our partner agency in Villa Esperanza, Nu3, focuses on nutrition and health. Their comedor (dining room) always smells amazing, and its walls lined with kids’ paintings. The women who work there are quiet but kind, equally intent on changing the lives of those they work with.
After the two Malambo communities, I jumped on a bus to Primero de Mayo in Soledad. After trying to track down several local addresses, I quickly learned that there was only one really useful landmark: la cancha (the field). Of course. When in doubt, the answer is always fútbol. This was fitting, as our partner agency in Primero de Mayo is Fútbol con Corazon (FCC), an organisation that runs sports- based development in low income communities in the area. I had an amazing time getting to know the kids and staff there, dancing, singing and, of course, scrimmaging. Primero de Mayo is infamous for being one of the most troubled neighbourhoods in the area, but FCC is the exception. It is the safe place that brings everyone together, a place where hope, openness and enthusiasm are contagious, and it is impossible visit without a smile.
I cannot deny a slight pang of jealousy that our participants will get to spend their whole summers working and living with the amazing people I met this past week, but all of us—staff, partner agencies, and host families alike—are all anxiously anticipating their arrival and the start of what is sure to be a summer to remember.
Shenandoah Cornish, Project Supervisor, Barranquilla