Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | January 26, 2012

Reflections on Colombia

Cartagena, Colombia en route to Houston, Texas

Located at the place where South America meets Central America, Colombia is a country steeped in history. Many of the names on the Colombian map are essentially the fingerprints of the European explorers who shaped the story of this nation. Colombia itself is named after Christopher Columbus, although the first European to actually set foot on Colombian soil was Alonso de Ojeda, a companion of the famed explorer. Sadly, in recent years, Colombia has become better known for its civil conflict and drug-related violence than for its rich history and the more recent Juan Valdéz, the iconic face of Colombian coffee. However, the country is taking intentional measures to provide greater security in order to encourage tourism. One ad that I saw said, “Colombia — the only risk is wanting to stay.” I like that kind of positive message and hope that the good people of Colombia can successfully wrestle their country back from the drug cartels that have ruined so many lives.

Colombia is a beautiful country and so are its people. I spent a good amount of my time in Colombia among the poor and those who are working hard to give the children of the poor a good education. CDA, the organization that I visited, is doing an amazing job of educating children, providing vocational training, and making micro-loans available to the poor so that they can generate income to support and sustain their families. Yesterday afternoon I met Marta, a woman who received a small loan from CDA three years ago. She used the funds to open a neighborhood store. Her business has grown significantly and she and her husband are now able to better provide for their young children. Marta told me that while she is grateful for the loan from CDA, she is especially thankful to the Lord for guiding her enterprise. Her story has also inspired others who have applied for micro-loans from CDA.

I am returning home refreshed, encouraged, and inspired. Once again, God has reminded me of the resiliency and resourcefulness of the poor. I met some really smart kids who have managed to excel in school despite having few resources and who study  in homes with dirt floors and no electricity. I met parents, grandparents, and single moms who are committed to doing whatever it takes to keep their kids in school and in church. They know all too well the dangers that can distract and destroy their kids. I also listened to the dreams of kids who are driven by sheer determination to succeed. They understand that the journey toward the realization of their dreams may take a little longer but that they can get there. It’s kids like these and the parents who believe in them that can change the face and future of Colombia — a beautiful country.


Responses

  1. I have a friend who has a home in Bogota’. He will be on National Geographic Explorer Sunday night as NatGeo follows him into the Emerald mines and mixes with the people. He has been there for over 25 years and has done much for the emerald community. He has a book entitled, “Emeralds A Passionate Guide ~ The Emeralds, the People, their Secrets”. He tells stories of progress and Fair Trade. I have yet to be there personally, but look forward to such an opportunity. He was entrusted with an emerald of 472 carat gem-quality emerald crystal from the La Pita mine in Colombia. It is a museum piece called the Itoco Emerald. Although I did not touch it: looking at it in 2009 deepened my desire to be a good steward of God’s natural resources in the regions from which these items originate. The NatGeo story is about an emerald that has an estimated value of $400 million. Blessings to you and the team.

    • Thanks for the info on your friend, Dacques.

  2. Omar … A lot of the challenges that face third world countries is the lack of knowledge to their plight by those of us who live in a privileged world! You are God’s way of putting them on the map … literally!
    Thank you for all you do…
    Lots of Love
    Jackie Sayles

    • Amen, Jackie. Awareness is indeed the first step toward a compassionate response. Thanks for your kind words and for your good work in Honduras.


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