Apr 12, 2021

A quiet start to a hectic year

Looking forward to future days like this!
Looking forward to future days like this!

Hola! With yet another pandemic wave hitting worse than the previous ones and lockdowns implemented again, we have had a very quiet quarter. We did receive another generous donation from our friend Toni in Canada, which should be arriving in the next few weeks. So look out for more finishing touches to the training centre spaces in our next report!

As you can imagine, it is very hard to forecast when we'll be able to start up our community based activities again with so much uncertainty, regardless of vaccine rollouts. I can tell you that our project participants are writing regularly to ask how we are doing, and hoping that we can provide them with an escape from the confines of their homes very soon with new classes. It's heartwarming to receive their messages, and to know that our work is both missed and appreciated as much as we miss and appreciate the people who come here to learn healthier ways of eating and starting small businesses!

Hopefully I'll have more to write soon, stay safe and find the positive in this additional time spent with your closest ones!

Brian

Dec 28, 2020

Wishing you a happier New Year!

Christmas giveaway with Help Colombia
Christmas giveaway with Help Colombia

Hola! As is the case in most parts of the world, a new wave of COVID has Medellin and Colombia on lockdown once again. Despite the challenges, we have continued to partner with additional local organizations to assist the most vulnerable in these trying times, and bring a smile to people's faces during the holiday season!

We finished off our activites sponsored by Francis' fundraiser in Canada by supporting our friend/volunteer Mar's Proyecto Florecer initiative: realizing that there was a real need for basic support like a healthy meal, the organization opened a community kitchen in a neighourhood in Belen, where they work mostly with Venezuelan women to serve 100+ free meals to people in need. We were able to purchase them the ingredients for two 100 person meals, in addition to buying a couple large pots and pans to make things easier during prep and service. They were extremely appreciative, and in the future when we can open the kitchen and training centre again, we will look for more collaboration activities, hopefully providing small business and culinary training to some of the Proyecto Florecer participants who want to start their own business!

We also continue to work with Help Colombia, who distributed over 600 meals and gifts in low income neighbourhoods of Belen and Moravia, including 100 Christmas packages during tough times.

And we have finally advanced a bit further with the funds raised by Catherine Ford earlier this year, to finish more work in the rooftop kitchen, and thanks to a donation from Toni in Canada which was used to purchase materials for outstanding metalwork, Catherine's friends' funds paid for the labour, and we now have our welding done!

And another bit of good news: we were recognized in Airbnb's year end celebration as the best Experiences host in Colombia for 2020! Let's hope that can create some momentum for us once things open up again to tourism, so that we can move closer to a self sustainable project in the long term! We continue to do our best to maximize the impact of any resources received, while pushing forward with our own spaces so that when this pandemic finally ends, we can be ready to help as many people as possible recover economically with their own small business plans and support in the kitchen! You can also find a link to a new video I was asked to make for a tourism fair in Europe promoting Colombia.

Happy holidays and New Year!

Brian

Help Colombian Christmas gifts and smiles
Help Colombian Christmas gifts and smiles
Community kitchen food prep with Proyecto Florecer
Community kitchen food prep with Proyecto Florecer
Some of the inspiring women in Proyecto Florecer
Some of the inspiring women in Proyecto Florecer
Welding work to create safe, secure project spaces
Welding work to create safe, secure project spaces

Links:

Sep 2, 2020

Adjusting our focus while quarantine continues

Karen delivering hot meals in Medellin
Karen delivering hot meals in Medellin

Hola! As the pandemic continues to evolve at different speeds around the world, Colombia has remained closed down until September, with infection rates across Latin America increasing dramatically over the past months. Via Cocina community activities continue suspended as we look forward to a brighter future, and we've stayed busy in the meantime with some adjustments in focus towards emergency activities.

We are by no means experienced and/or prepared for the logistics of emergency relief (what we can say is that our community cooking classes before the pandemic have helped families prepare their local ingredients in Medellin in different healthy ways while they've been in lockdown, which has helped many); so instead of trying to reinvent the wheel, we've found some creative ways to work with others to help support those who need it most.

In my last report I mentioned that our friend Francis from Canada was fundraising for some emergency food distribution activities: To date we have successfully realized two activities! For the first activity, we held a virtual cooking class for 16 project participants and low income community members, where we made a list of easy-to-find ingredients, portioned for 10-12 people, and we sent a money transfer to each participant so they could buy the ingredients before participating in the class. Each of the 16 participants cooked the meal with our guidance for 10-12 people, including their immediate families and neighbours who are going through tough times right now. Some participants like Karen and Mar also distributed all of the meals they prepared to families and individuals in the streets of Medellin. It was an emotional and successful activity, providing an extremely nutritious meal full of fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy and meat proteins, something that many have scaled back on with unemployment currently at over 20% in Colombia. Over 170 people received a hot meal thanks to this activity, and we were happy to have been able to organize it!

We also wanted to reach extremely vulnerable families in different neighbourhoods that have been neglected or underserved by other programs, and we decided to partner with Help Colombia, who is distributing packages of groceries to pre-identified families in the Belen Altavista (el Botadero) neighbourhood. They visited the community in August and had told us they had a list of 15 families to deliver the goods to; we transferred them the money to pay for all 15 families' food, which was projected to last a week for a family of four (which translates into a total of 1,260 meals for them). Attached are some photos from both of these activities (Help Colombia photos provided by Joel Duncan), and we hope to realize one more distinct activity in the coming weeks..

I also mentioned that our friend Catherine in Florida was generous enough to run a fundraiser for us as part of her birthday celebration, and those funds are being put towards some of the outstanding work in the rooftop kitchen, as well as some security metalwork for the training centre sales area, where participants will be selling food and clients will be seated. Unfortunately due to the pandemic the work continues to be delayed, as our suppliers haven't had access to their materials, but we hope to have more photos and good news for our next report.

And last but not least, we need to thank GlobalGiving for supporting our project with a very generous hardship microgrant! This has helped us to pay some project overhead that would usually be covered by our suspended activities, and to continue prepping our spaces for re-opening: we have installed windows in our facade, where the prep area for project participants selling to the public had dust and smoke entering the house (I cannot believe we continued for years without windows, which made cleaning so much more work!). The windows that open also have mosquito screens installed, as mosquitos were entering the training centre during classes and biting class participants. We'll also be installing additional hand washing sinks and equipment in the entrance area, required for new hygiene/biosecurity protocol compliance in Colombia. A big thank you for your support!

I hope you are staying safe and patience hasn't run out as we all learn to manage our lives and projects in different ways. Thanks again, and talk to you soon!

Brian

Blanca cooking healthy meal from virtual class
Blanca cooking healthy meal from virtual class
German and family enjoying nutritious meal
German and family enjoying nutritious meal
Recipes and thank you note from Rivera family
Recipes and thank you note from Rivera family
Families gathered for food distribution
Families gathered for food distribution
Help Colombia grocery distribution in Belen
Help Colombia grocery distribution in Belen
Appreciative families
Appreciative families
Installing facade windows and mosquito screens
Installing facade windows and mosquito screens
 
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