by Erick Uribe
The VAC (Volunteer Advisory Committee) has been awarding $50,000 (COP) mini-grants to Peace Corps Colombia volunteers on a monthly basis since November 2015. Since then, we have awarded six mini-grants, for a total of $300,000 (COP). However modest, these funds provide Volunteers with a streamlined method for financing small projects within their communities. Thus, VAC fundraising activities continually allow PCVs to efficiently carry out activities that have a direct impact on their sites. Each of the following projects was partially funded by a mini-grant after being selected by current VAC members.
Brianna Thompson, Shelby Crump, Alyssa Galik
For our community project at our training site, we held three mini-camps involving the youth of Palmar de Varela that focused on environment, public health, and community action. With the support of the alcaldia, we promoted the camps on Facebook, posted info in key public spaces, and we had great attendance! Thanks to the VAC mini-grant, we were able to purchase supplies that helped us demonstrate ways to reuse garbage. We also bought healthy snacks, soap as door prizes (so the kids could practice good hand-washing at home) and garbage bags. We gave back to the host community by doing a cleanup.
As part of the “Children’s Month” celebrations, I planned an imaginary “Trip to the United States” for the children of Sabanagrande. During this two-hour event, kids were able to rotate through different stations and learn more about United States culture, while sharing Colombian culture with various PCV’s. The activities included everything from recess games to karaoke to peanut butter and jelly sandwich making. Thanks to the VAC mini-grant, I was able to buy ingredients, decorations, and materials for a small craft project so that the kids could take home a souvenir from their “trip”.
With the help of a student I created an art club. The student of mine suggested this club because so many students at our school love to draw. This club was also created to give students something constructive to do outside of classes, especially during the long December-January break. With the help of the VAC Mini-Grant I was able to buy drawing pads, colored pencils, erasers, pencil sharpeners, and regular pencils.
Trevor Johnson and Helena Vonk
Red de Apoyo ended up morphing into a youth leadership group since adults over nineteen-years-old just didn’t come. We did a number of activities and discussions around power, trust, control, fears, accomplishment and celebration, and gratitude. The funds provided by VAC went towards food supplies, the cartulina for collective appreciations of each participant, and to print certificates of completion for our closing celebration. In total, we had about 12-14 regular participants over two months. During our last meeting, the kids reflected on their experiences by writing a letter to their future selves about what they wanted to remember and what new perspectives they had learned. Everyone shared words of gratitude and we even had a few tears. Thank you VAC! You made a world of difference to us and to the participants of Red de Apoyo.
An ongoing project for me has been having a stable after school program. Through lots of trial and error, I attempted this year again with a new model. Rather than having a communal place for the kids to come meet me at, I made myself mobile, going into different neighborhoods daily to gain more participation. I didn’t want to limit those kids that may live in the outskirts of town. With the VAC mini grant I was able to buy a table. The table accompanies me to the varying parts of town; the children of Usiacurí use it to color, play board games, and do the occasional bit of homework. This table is actually allowing me to broaden my program. It’s not limited to only sports activities, but actually incorporates cognitive skill activities, some visual arts, and healthy social peer interaction.
Thanks VAC mini-grant!