Hillary Merwin
Hillary Merwin
Colombia 2013
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Hola! My travels are taking me to Bogotá, Colombia where I will be spending six months volunteering with a community development organization called Fundación Comunidad Viva by tutoring children in after-school programs, planning community events, leading camps and much more. Join me on this adventure! Read More About Hillary →

A very cultural experience

This past week was anything but average. It started with the normal schedule: a time of rest Monday morning, meetings with neighborhood girls in the afternoon, English tutoring Tuesday morning, after school tutoring in the afternoon, more meetings Wednesday, my weekly trip downtown. And then I got stuck.

What began as peaceful protests among the campesinos (farmers) grew into more violent protests among university students and others fed up with the injustices facing the agricultural community.

In short, the Colombian president signed a free trade agreement with U.S. which basically prohibits the campesinos from using Colombian seeds and other national products, rather those imported from the U.S. Because of this, Colombia as a country receives tons of money from the U.S. for signing the agreement yet the lives of the individual campesinos are in grave danger as they can no longer compete against foreign prices and as a result, continue to make a living. The whole situation is extremely complicated (especially when explained to me in Spanish) but I tried to make a point to learn as much as I could as everything that was happening was very “close to home.”

With that said, never were we in danger, we just stayed indoors to take precautions as you never knew when a peaceful protest could turn into something else.

Amidst all the turmoil however, we found peace staying inside as we spent every single day working on plans for establishing another Fundación Comunidad Viva in downtown Bogotá (hence, the lack of pictures this week). We worked countless hours on vision statements, values, strategies, target groups, on and on and on. Yet what a rewarding experience to be able to spend so much time immersed in such an important project.

After the protests and riots calmed down, we started up again our Viernes Culturales (cultural Fridays). These have been wonderful get togethers we hold every week by inviting friends, neighbors, and even random strangers we meet on the street, to hang out with us downtown and return to Jorge’s apartment for food and games. This is also a part of starting the new nonprofit here. So many of the people we’ve met are already so excited to get involved in programs we’ve yet to even start! Protests and riots aside, this past week was a blast and an interesting change of pace, though I’ll be looking forward to getting back to my normal, riot-free schedule this week 🙂

2 thoughts on “A very cultural experience”

  1. So proud of you, Hillary! Agriculture issues are also volatile in Guatemala, and have been since like the 1500’s. We’re encouraged to see all the success you’re having and all of your beautiful adventures. Keep up the incredible work!

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