ACDI/VOCA Colombia PAR renovated elementary school

Before and after shots of the renovated elementary school in the neighborhood of Bahía Solano in Quibdó

The Bahía Solano neighborhood of Quibdó, Colombia, the capital city of the Chocó department, is located just across the Atrato River, five minutes by boat from the city’s center. Despite its proximity, the area’s largely Afro-Colombian communities are socially marginalized and often overlooked for municipal resources.

The Vamos Colombia campaign, an initiative supported by ACDI/VOCA’s USAID-funded Program of Alliances for Reconciliation (PAR), brought 50 volunteers from diverse backgrounds and companies to Quibdó to participate in the Vamos Chocó project. Theses volunteers, all private sector employees, traveled from Bogotá, Bucaramanga, and other major cities to work with the Bahía Solano community on high-impact community development projects.

ACDI/VOCA Colombia PAR new school bathrooms

Before and after shots of new bathrooms in the renovated elementary school

Together they spent four days reconstructing a community center and renovating an abandoned school by repairing the leaking roof and installing new bathrooms. Thanks to the support of Colombian companies Dispac and Pavco, that school now has running water and electricity, meaning children have access to an education without having to pay to cross the river to attend the nearest school.

In addition to these projects, volunteers from two local companies held a robotics workshop for roughly 20 students to help spark their interest in science and technology.

Furthermore, the event gave visibility to a historically stigmatized and forgotten neighborhood, resulting in a rare visit from the mayor, who vowed to act on the community’s request to build an erosion prevention structure to protect against flooding.

ACDI/VOCA Colombia PAR volunteers

Fifty volunteers from 14 companies participated in the four-day community development volunteer campaign, Vamos Colombia.

Vamos Chocó is the second of six volunteer projects the Vamos Colombia campaign will organize this year.

Its volunteers had the chance to step out of their comfort zones and change their perceptions of historically marginalized areas associated with violence and armed conflict.

“I came to discover parts of the country that I have never seen before. I believe that the moment has come to get together and look each other in the face.  I’ve contributed my energy and work so that the children of Bahiía Solano don’t have to cross the river to get to school. This is just the start; it is just a small contribution to the rebuilding of this country.”

─Saloman Vaie, volunteer with Vamos Colombia and legal director at the Colombian company Bavaria

More about Program of Alliances for Reconciliation (PAR).