Hillary Merwin
Hillary Merwin
Colombia 2013
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 →


This week I got a deeper look into what Fundación Comunidad Viva is all about–from the inside!

Bright and early at 7am, the staff gathered around a delicious Colombian breakfast of huevos pericos (scrambled eggs with tomatoes and onions) and coffee (of course, this is Colombia). I felt privileged enough to be one of them and to be able to give my input into what the foundation’s work would look like this year.

Leading the meeting, Jorge told us that he wanted Comunidad Viva to focus in on three main areas. While the foundation has a wide range of programs, we’ve realized that three of them are extremely effective and we want to center our work around those.

1. Supervacas

This is the series of vacation bible schools the foundation puts on to reach out to children in the community, and consequently their parents, too! Comunidad Viva currently holds a Supervacas in the town of Pacho and two neighborhoods in Bogotá. Last June, we had a Supervacas in Pacho and are planning another for late November, as well as another one in Bogotá in October (both of which I will be one of the main people in charge!). These weeklong events are an amazing way to get to know the kids and families in the community. Each week consists of amazing crafts (the last Supervacas, we built a cardboard car!), lessons, music, and lots and lots of dancing.



2. Programa de Ayuda Extraescoler (PAE)

This is the after school tutoring program that will start up again this Tuesday! PAE will be one of my main responsibilities, not just as a tutor but as an overseer of the program, too (looking for ways to improve it, researching new materials, planning field trips, managing volunteers etc.). Kids come to the program every Tuesday and Thursday from 3-5 and meet with volunteers to get help with their homework. We also do lessons, readings, and take the kids on a field trip in the beginning of the session and–for those who’ve received enough tokens based on attendance, behavior, etc.–another trip at the end of the program.

Jorge asked if I would help plan the first trip. Even though I was nervous to call the museum and set up the trip, my Spanish proved to be good enough and I successfully planned a time for the kids to go to the museum! I’m excited for the program to start next week and to get to know some more kids in the Prado neighborhood.


3. La Cueva

This word, meaning “the cave” is the name of the orphanage that the foundation started for orphans who turn 18 and are essentially kicked out of the state-run system and have no where to go. Jorge and Ginny’s old apartment in the Prado neighborhood is now used as a transitional home for 4 guys who are working and studying hard to get through college. Some of them have even received scholarships to study and are thriving in this independent living situation. It’s been a blessing getting to know some of these guys and while Jorge is the main overseer of this particular program, it’s exciting getting to see it grow as we continue to invite new faces into the house.



In addition to planning, this week also consisted of some grunt work to prepare the church to host the tutoring program next week. Rooms were cleaned, offices were organized. My particular project was to wrap up some of the mattresses from our Pacho trip to prepare them for storage. I’d say I did a pretty good job.




The week was full of other planning meetings as well as brainstorming sessions for planning the new church/nonprofit in the downtown area. Looking forward to getting more things rolling next week!

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