By Kathleen Rodriguez
It’s been a year of change for Peace Corps Colombia. Between shifting from an urban focus to a rural one, saying goodbye to old staff members, and welcoming a new country director, it’s been a whirlwind. We’re happy to say we’ve survived. In retrospect, the whirlwind wasn’t so bad; it brought us two new and exceptional staff members that we are excited to meet and work with.
Beatriz Cordoba joins us as Peace Corps Colombia’s new Community and Economic Development Project Manager. Beatriz is no stranger to public service or community development. Originally from Cali, Beatriz studied speech therapy before deciding to get a Master’s Degree in Economics from a university in Bogota.
When asked what inspired this drastic shift in her studies, Beatriz cited her experience as a volunteer. Beatriz spent six months as a volunteer in Neiva, Colombia, where she worked with the government on programs to break the cycle of poverty. After that, she says she realized she had a passion for working with communities and wanted to pursue that passion.
Since then, Beatriz has made impressive strides relating to community development. She worked for the government on a program to implement technology into education that eventually brought computers into public schools throughout Colombia. From there, she came to Barranquilla to work with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, where she advised the government on how to best help and support the displaced population of Colombia. Recently, she worked with United Nations Development Program (UNDP) on an economic development program that coordinated partnerships with NGOs and the private sector to build job skills and training. The program also worked to provide microfinance funds for entrepreneurs starting a business.
Most recently, Beatriz braved a journey to Thailand, accompanied by her three-year-old son, Miguel, where she spent six months volunteering at an orphanage. She has felt the same fears, doubts, and frustrations that are a common thread between all volunteers. Her time there inspired her to write short children’s stories documenting her experience that she hopes to one day share with her son. Reflecting on her own difficulties, Beatriz offers us these words of wisdom, “Connect. Connect with people, connect with your experience. If you open your heart and mind, and are willing to share, you’ll have a great experience.” We couldn’t agree more.
Lilia Gonzalez begins her work with Peace Corps Colombia as our new TEL Program Manager. Lilia comes to us with a wealth of impressive experience in the field of teaching, leadership, and curriculum design.
Originally from Bogota, Lilia worked for a time as a radio and T.V. producer. She eventually decided to pursue a career in education and went on to receive a Bachelor’s Degree in Languages, and her Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership.
Armed with a passion for education, Lilia has dedicated her life to reaching students with diverse backgrounds. Lilia has taught in various private schools in Colombia, and recently worked on curriculum design as part of the International Baccalaureate program at Marymount private school in Bogota. Lilia also knows very well what it’s like to teach in the U.S.; she spent some time in San Jose Unified School District as a teacher in the dual immersion program, and also worked in Clayton County, Georgia.
Lilia’s enthusiasm and love of learning is a residing theme throughout her career. Her desire to constantly test her limits as a professional led her to open a Bogota newspaper to find the announcement for a position with Peace Corps. She was excited by the challenge and didn’t hesitate to apply. We are lucky she did, as her enthusiasm for our work is contagious. She left her husband Mario and son Danny behind in Bogota, (no doubt a heart-breaking decision) because her belief in our mission is so strong. Lilia is thrilled to be part of the Peace Corps family, and leaves us with these important words of wisdom, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”
Thank you, Beatriz and Lilia, for caring so much about the success of our work. We salute you, and offer you a warm welcome to our family.