Rineicha Otero in Colombia – Day 4

Tuesday 8/20/2013

Today I visited Pontificia Universidad Javeriana Cali, where I met with the director of the university’s social responsibility office.  During this meeting, I learned about current programs established to target social issues in different communities throughout Cali.

A two-week program has been created in collaboration with Gonzaga University (Washington) to focus on production of agriculture and to create an association that will promote farming to youth.

Fe y Alegria (Faith and Happiness) was established in Venezuela, but its model has been used for many years in Colombia. It is a learning center dedicated to inclusive learning (meaning people with disabilities and different ethnic groups). Over 6,000 youth have been reached. Programs are geared to visual communication, psychology, sociology, and art in communications, among many.  Fe y Alegria also targets adults who want to learn some technical skills. One of the amazing aspects of this center is the peer-to-peer education. It provides leadership opportunities to members of the community.

Comuna 18 focuses on communication and politics related to students. Visual communication is used to express the personal experience (what they see and feel) of students throughout Cali.

The director had interest in what I did back home. I explained the different programs in extension, including 4-H. She showed great interest in possible collaborations in the future.

After lunch, I met with one of the board members of San Jorge, Johnnie. Johnnie is originally from a city called Neiba, a middle class community that was surrounded by a displaced community. During his time in Neiba, he learned about the challenges faced by these families. Johnnie decided he wanted to influence a positive social impact. At the time, his business was declining and he was looking for different options. Johnnie ended up moving to Cali, to help a friend, and when asked to help the San Jorge community, he did not hesitate. He has become one of the leaders in the community.

Johnnie lives in the community center, where he opens the doors for youth to come throughout the day to read, learn math, and draw. “They absolutely love to draw,” said Johnnie.

Johnnie also stated “I have never been so happy and never laughed as much, as I have in the past three years; we are strong and look out for each other.”

His passion for this community is very evident. His respect, solidarity, and generosity reflect the community’s principles.