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 23 mini-grants totaling $1,150,000 COP. Below you will find the most recent projects that were supported by the Mini-Grant program.
Boxing School for Neighborhood Girls and Boys
Elijah Goodman, CII-9 Community Economic Development
In one of the vulnerable neighborhoods of my site, Juan, an experienced boxer, runs a small boxing school for neighborhood boys and girls on his back patio. Not only is Juan teaching these 6 to 16 year olds a new skill, he is providing a safe space to a group that comes from challenging living situations. Many come from single- or no-parent households in a neighborhood that often lacks electricity and clean water. What’s more, boxing promotes gender equality, as girls and boys train side by side.
A few years ago, the Alcaldía provided Juan with some equipment, but despite Juan’s best efforts to keep it in good shape, wear and tear has taken a toll and there is not enough equipment to go around. This mini-grant would enable Juan to purchase supplies for a pull-up bar, cement for weights, and materials to resew the heavy bags and gloves. These materials will not only enable the continuation of the program, but allow for more kids to participate and benefit from Juan’s boxing school.
Artisan Classroom Revamp
Dezi Abreu, CII-9 Community Economic Development
The CED framework entails that I work alongside SENA Articulación con la Media at the local I.E.T.A. as one of our 4 objectives. With the support of local I.E.T.A. staff and regional SENA participants, we promote financial literacy and entrepreneurial skills among young adults through practicum projects. My site has a rich artisan history especially when it comes to hammock and mochila weaving. The central theme of the 11th grade weaving course assigned to me is to create innovative weaving and tapestry products to be showcased in a regional artisan fair. I have found it fairly challenging to motivate local students and counterparts given that the majority of the population is displaced citizens. The pueblo was living its golden era (much due to help of the Peace Corps in the 70’s) until multiple guerrilla and paramilitary forces took control of the region until the mid-2000’s. As a result, many economic opportunities and partnerships disintegrated and have not yet been reestablished.
I would love to use the grant money to buy materials needed to revamp our local artisan classroom in I.E.T.A. Initiating this project as a team will help build much-needed self-confidence within the local staff and students. The money granted will be used as a hands-on example of how to budget and build on one’s assets by seeing which students can get better prices for what we need, and to showcase the rich artisan history of the pueblo. Our newly revamped classroom will serve as inspiration to create innovative weaving projects we have planned for the regional artisan fair. I hope to use this as a platform to invite local administration of the school to contribute to the renovation and show the potential of the course. Furthermore, if granted the funds I would like to document the process by creating a video to be posted on my third goal oriented blog. As part of a pilot program I think it is important to showcase how a mini-victory can have a large impact within the community.