Maria Inmaculada Sede Coloncito: 40 Years without Electricity
I’ve been to a few very improvised villages, neighborhoods and towns throughout my travels, however my experience today was much more, engrossing, providing a very humbling experience. This week I started volunteering in two poor neighborhoods, La Boquilla and Olaya. Obviously, this offers a new and different kind of engagement with locals. I’ll discuss both in detail in the future but today a small group and I traveled to a village 2-3 hours southwest of Cartagena, Maria Inmaculada Sede Coloncito.
Gustavo, my Spanish instructor along with the community organizer from Olaya, Ozmio, organized a small group to visit Maria Inmaculada Sede Coloncito. By sheer coincidence, Ozmio and Gustavo knew one another. Having just worked with Ozmio and his wife the day before, it offered me two familiar faces for the journey. Also on the trip was Gustavo’s sister Nimmia (who’s visiting home from Annandale, VA), Michael (an American from NYC) and Eva, another familiar face from Holland, (I meet her a few days prior at a bar where Gustavo invited his students) both of whom are students of Gustavo.
Gustavo and Ozmio wanted a few foreigners to accompany them on the trip to offer the village residents a view of the world they seldom if ever see. To see what’s possible and broaden their perspectives, if only a little.
I was unsure what the trip would consist of. My assumption was we’d interact with the kids and hand out toys or something along those lines. Upon arriving we were quickly shuffled into a “classroom” and us four visitors were seated in front of about 20 of the village adults. I thought, “What did I get myself into?”.
A conversation in Spanish soon ensued between a few outspoken town residents, Gustavo and Ozmio. I quickly learned this was the second of such meetings to discuss the towns desire to get electricity for their village. They were passionate, angry and eager for any advice and assistance. They have gone without power for 40 years and after pleading for electricity, they feel abandoned by the government (also the government stopped sending a teacher there for the kids). Feed up with being ignored, ostracized and worthless in the governments’ eyes, they said fuck it (sorry mom) we’ll do it our themselves! Problem is they don’t really know how. The had a few ideas and plans not quite thought out. From what I gathered, the only plan at the moment was for each family to raise what I think is $300 American dollars. After that, it’s pretty much up in the air. But they’re really really exacerbated and want this for their families.
So Ozmio and Gustavo are trying to help. Neither of whom has any expertise in this area. They’re just two regular guys who want to help some fellow Colombians, less fortunate than themselves. And they don’t have much.
All the above to say it really offered a distinct engagement with citizens who want more but not quite sure how to accomplish it. There we were sitting in on a town meeting to discuss how they can work towards providing electricity their village. Not being experts in the slightest, us foreigners chimed in from time to time with questions and a little insight as we received translations. Somehow the idea of solar energy came up and that quickly became a debating point. Some wanted traditional power as its much quicker to establish and others open to a new approach. I’m not sure they fully understood the benefits of solar.
I nearly bailed on going on this day trip, as the thought of waking up at 5am seemed too daunting. I’m so so appreciative for going and hope to attend another meeting before I depart. Makes my worrying about if I brought enough clothes to Cartagena or not seem… small!