As CII-6 prepares to end our service, we have also transferred fundraising efforts and Mini-Grant distribution responsibilities to the CII-8 VAC (Volunteer Advisory Council) representatives: Trevor Johnson and Helena Vonk. We’ve been thrilled to see how the Mini-Grant program has grown over the past year and have especially enjoyed seeing the projects that have benefited from receiving these funds. Seeing the amazing things that can be done with some PCV ingenuity and a bit of funding constantly reminds us of the importance of this program. We can’t wait to see how the program continues to evolve over the next year and know that Peace Corps Colombia is in good hands thanks to CII-8 and CII-9 volunteers.

For those of you that don’t know, the VAC Mini-Grant program is intended to support volunteers’ community initiatives by providing a streamlined source of small cash grants. However modest, PCVs have come to rely on the $50,000 COP (equal to approximately $17 USD) grants as a consistent and reliable crowd-funded financial resource. Since January 2016, VAC’s fundraising efforts have enabled us to distribute 13 mini-grants totaling $650,000 COP. Below you will find five of the most recent projects that were supported by the Mini-Grant program.


Kids looking at photos

Photo Camp

Alyssa Galik, CII-8

The purpose of the photo camp was to give students a way to express themselves creatively, learn about composition elements, and tell their stories through photography. Fellow PCV Carrie Shoultz gave an awesome presentation on elements of composition. We used resources provided from the Outside the Lens foundation called “Aqui Estoy” in order to practice composition as well as allow the students to express who they were through photos.  Grant funds were used to print photos, which were put together as collages and will be rotated around the foundation, library, and school as an exposition before being permanently placed at these locations.


Trevor and kids with white boards

White Boards

Trevor Johnson, CII-8

The white board mini-grant project was to create a classroom set of personal white boards. We were able to make them using triple (a product similar to thin wood), printer paper and papel contac (contact paper).

The white boards have been a valuable tool for promoting writing and spelling activities as well as games and classroom competition. The students loved using them. Some went on to make their own white boards to use in their free time.


Constructing poles for net; Holding up the poles; Kids with volleyball

Volleyball for All

Shelby Crump, CII-8

My project was building a volleyball court for my pueblo. The idea was to create a space that could be enjoyed by all members of the community regardless of age or gender. I was hoping that the court would be especially welcoming to the girls in the community and for this reason it was a group of girls that took charge in the construction. It ended up being a community effort with everyone all over the pueblo coming to help. For all their hard work I shared a piece of my culture with those that helped most in the form of a spaghetti dinner. I used the grant funds to purchase the cement, poles, sand, and paint. Thanks VAC for your part in this project!


Group picture; girls making shapes with hands

Camp GLOW’s First Annual Picnic

Jessi Atha, Stacy Johnson, Casey Keating, and Jordan Lidstrom, Camp GLOW Directors, CII-6

Camp GLOW (Girls Leading Our World) is a girl’s camp dedicated to creating young future female leaders for the country of Colombia. The camp has been held for three years now. In an attempt to generate further connection, motivation, and project production, the directors of GLOW 2016 decided to organize a picnic for all former GLOWistas to attend once a year. Saturday, September 17th marked the first GLOW picnic and girls from all previous years of camp attended.

At the picnic the girls were given time to reminisce about Camp GLOW, interact with participants from previous camps, and present and observe current and previous projects put in place throughout the coast by participants. Such projects included: creating a mini-camp (game day) for children in the community by following the example that was provided at Camp GLOW, a school cleanup project, volunteering and participating in youth development programs, and implementing a campaign to advocate for self-love (and advocate against self-harm in the form of cutting or depression).

Half of the VAC grant funds given to the GLOW directors was used to create an initial transportation fund for the participants from San Jacinto (the girls used this money to then fundraise for the transport cost) along with helping to purchase bread, meat, and cheese to make sandwiches. The picnic served as a great opportunity to reconnect with one another and inspire the continued efforts and involvement in projects. GLOW 2016 wishes to thank the VAC committee for their contribution and support in this amazing new step towards creating new young leaders!


Group photo; Monica and participant with whiteboard


Monica Malcomson, CII-8

Spanglish is a well-established community conversation class offered to everyone living in or passing through Santa Marta. It was created by CII-5 volunteers and we have been very lucky to reintroduce this intercambio to Santa Marta once again. Our opening night was on Thursday, September 1st and we have been meeting every Thursday since on the beautiful terrace of La Brisa Loca hostel, where the program originally started. Ricardo, the manager of the hostel, was thrilled to see our faces when we introduced ourselves as Peace Corps Volunteers and approached him to restart Spanglish. He has since extremely supportive and helpful to us. We have an average of 20 members attend each week, several of which are now regulars! When members arrive, we usually engage in a short activity or casual conversation until others begin to show up. The structure of our 2-hour language exchange is usually themed and begins with a short mini-lesson regarding useful vocabulary and/or grammar that prepares attendees for the night’s activities and prompts. This has been very helpful and is a new element that CII-8 has added to Spanglish to enhance participation and confidence levels. Our mini-lessons are then followed by two or three activities to practice conversational and speaking skills! Most of our members are Colombian, but we are hoping to see more foreigners and English speakers join our group and add to its diversity. The funds received by our awarded VAC Mini Grant have been very useful to date, and we have not yet spent it all.

In the class on Thursday, September 29th, we purchased a small cake as a snack to honor and celebrate a member’s birthday. This particular evening was very special and enjoyed by our guests. It helped enhance our Spanglish relationships and created a stronger sense of friendship and family within the group. We played birthday games such as pin the tail on the donkey to help practice giving directions and birthday-themed charades to enhance vocabulary.

VAC funds are also being used to professionally print a Spanglish poster that will be hung in La Brisa Loca, and throughout other businesses in the Centro. We have also made a point of saving some of the funds to put towards our PC-Spanglish rubber bracelets that we are still in the process of ordering. As we continue to grow and establish ourselves, we’d like to offer these bracelets to our committed members! Overall, Spanglish has been a huge success! We look forward to seeing how it evolves and we are certainly grateful for our VAC Mini Grant! Thank you!


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