by Christopher Fay
My name is Christopher Fay (RPCV Nicaragua 2008-10) and I want to introduce C-II-7 and our project. We are the first group of Community Economic Development (CED) specialists in Colombia. We are all RPCVs from Thailand, Nicaragua, Colombia, Peru, El Salvador, Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, Burundi, Ukraine, and Ecuador. We all served between 1969 and 2015. We are consultants to the Peace Corps Colombia team in their efforts to develop a program for Community Economic Development. We are serving in ten municipalities across four different departments along the Caribbean coast for an eleven-month period, which will end in October.
C-II-7 in Barranquilla
We have four main tasks. First, we look at the needs and local capabilities related to six key areas by interviewing critical CED stakeholders. This might involve local government, NGOs, local businesses and community members. The areas we look at are the following:
- Entrepreneurship- innovation and initiative in economic endeavors
- Youth employability- dreams, hopes, skills, abilities for early career
- Financial literacy- savings, budgeting, credit, insurance and other financial services
- Income-generating activities- informal income, part-time activities, handicrafts, agriculture.
- Savings-based microfinance- Access to microcredit and financial services such as community banks, rotating funds, and community auto finance.
- Business management-accounting, organization, marketing, sales
Formal Meeting at Corpoguajira with Stanley
Second, as we conduct interviews, we identify potential counterparts in community economic development. These future partners will help introduce future CED volunteers to the economic system and community. They are divided into the following four categories and could include but are not limited to the following examples:
- National Government- DPS, ANSPE, Governacion
- Local Government-Mayor, Community Action Committee, Negritudes, Cooperatives
- NGOs -Microfinance, environment, United Nations Development Program,
- Local Businesses- Cooperatives, Chamber of Commerce, small businesses.
We are also beginning to implement test projects and activities in order to create a memory of best practices, as well as to focus the CED project on one or two key areas.
As our last step, we will use the collected information and practices to create a better definition of the CED program and help to train C-II-9 with our best practices.
Currently as a group we are involved in the first and second activities as we begin to integrate into our community and work. We use a handful of skills and tools to get to know the people in our municipalities. Some of these skills are accomplished through intentional relationship building, interviewing, community mapping, stakeholder identification and time mapping (daily and seasonal calendars).
In the last two months, I have been to dozens of formal meetings with organizations and government officials in both Dibulla and Riohacha. These have provided me with an idea of the layout of the region and economic development sector. I have met with countless individuals in order to communicate what both Peace Corps and community economic development are all about. I also sat in on a course on entrepreneurship in tourism.
Despite what you may think, life isn’t just boring meetings. I got to release a sea turtle in Palomino and I try to spend a little time in the clear rivers of Mingueo each week. I also frequent my host mother’s bakery in Mingueo.
Turtle Release in Palomino, Fly Leonardo, Fly!
At Play in the River, These Peladitos Don’t Stand a Chance!