Bringing Hope to 10 Families in Medellin, Colombia

by Corporacion Interactuar
Beatriz and her son
Beatriz and her son
Dear donor,
The Interactuar team and the families from Comuna 13 thank you for your support. When we sent the last report we were analyzing the best way to help our entrepreneurs and their families from this neighborhood in Medellín.
During these 3 months, we visited the businesses of our entrepreneurs to find out what their current needs were . We came to know that, brand and packaging design, management training, sanitary authorizations and production equipment are on the top of the list of the requirements which will help them to be more competitive in the market.
Now, our whole team at Interactuar is working on a plan to give those families the right goods and services to help them make their businesses sustainable. This will contribute to the development of the whole community by boosting the local market and increasing the employment rate.
We will be innovating ideas to meet our goal of improving the businesses and the lives of the people in Comuna 13, and will keep you informed of our advancements!!!

Dear donor,

The 10 families involved in this project are constantly working towards improving their lives through the businesses they founded. And this happens thanks to you and your involvement.

Comuna 13 thrives in matter of entrepreneurial activities and these micro entrepreneurs work hard to bring their contribution to the local market. Your support and encouragement help them move forward. These entrepreneurs are thankful every day for the new opportunities this project provides them. With long-term visions and thorough business plans, they become more and more success oriented

We are reorienting our steps for meeting the current needs of the entrepreneurs and their families in Comuna 13. Stay with us this year and help these families help themselves, that will show them it’s possible. Not being alone will also determine them even more to never stop working for achieving their dreams. The project is ongoing and we invite you to make a gift at your choice, by selecting a donation option here.

Beatriz and Shona with Don Aldemar
Beatriz and Shona with Don Aldemar

Dear Donors,

The end of the year has nearly arrived, almost unbelievably, and we want to reflect on some things we have achieved in the last few months.

The end of October was the start of something new and wonderful for us here at Together for Colombia. We started personal fundraising campaigns and allowed individual supporters to start their own campaigns to help our Comuna 13, ‘Bringing Hope’ entrepreneurs. This is something that we have not done previously and so, imaginably, we were all very apprehensive about the results.

Amazingly, with your support and the support of our fundraisers, we raised $870 in less than a week!! This translates to over 2.5 million pesos which will go unbelievably far in helping our small business owners and entrepreneurs.

Remember, the beneficiaries from this project come from the poorest and most notoriously violent neighbourhood in Medellín. Their community has been plagued with gang wars, murder and crime for decades. The money you have raised is going to help them provide a sustainable livelihood, not only for themselves and their families, but eventually also for others in the community as their small business continue to improve, grow and prosper.

Each beneficiary only needs a tiny amount of money to be able to make the difference they want to make, for their business. The amount of money you have raised means we can make an unrecognisable difference to them and their lives.

The actions we will take in the following weeks is to visit each small business owner, discuss and re-assess their business needs with them, and then decide collaboratively between the entrepreneurs and our business consultants, how your donations can be spent to achieve the greatest impact and the greatest good.

We will of course keep you updated on our progress, so you can see how your help is changing lives!

Thank you again, from the whole of the Together for Colombia team and from each and every one of our entrepreneurs. Your donation is going much further than you can imagine!

With gratitude and warm wishes for Christmas and New Year,


Beatriz and her empanada stall
Beatriz and her empanada stall
Angela's infectious smile!

When we arrived at Arepas 1A, owner Ángela’s kind smile made me grin before either of us had even said a word. As the others stood outside and exchanged ‘good mornings’ and ‘how are you’s’, I was immediately ushered into the back of the shop by Ángela’s husband Bertulfo, to see the fresh corn kernels being milled into a wettish yellow mush.

As I stood, mesmerised in the early morning sun by the mechanical whirring of the milling machine and the irregular plopping of the corn into the bucket below, Bertulfo explained to me the difference between arepas de chócolo and white arepas; ‘for great chócolo, you need the sweet corn when it’s really fresh’ he said, as he squeezed a kernel between his thumb and finger; ‘for white arepas, you use mature white corn’. As Bertulfo carried on with his explanation, I couldn’t help but join in as he sifted through the kernels in the funnel of the machine, picking out stray corn hairs and other bits of organic matter. This little ritual is how every day begins for Bertulfo, as Ángela shouts greetings to passing neighbours and confidently strides around her shop, moving, sorting and preparing for the coming day’s production of between 250 and 550 arepas.

Ángela and Bertulfo, part of our ‘Bringing Hope’ project, started a family arepa business in Ibague to give themselves and their children an opportunity for stable employment. After some years, having struggled with falling demand due to economic hardship in the region, the family moved to Comuna 13 in Medellín. Once they had arrived in Medellín, they were visited by Interactuar’s own Beatriz Navarro. Beatriz was at the time working on a project in conjunction with el País Vasco, going door-to-door asking the neighbourhood small business owners if they were interested in being involved in the project. The basis of the project was to build, consolidate and strengthen the corporate image of each small business - giving the entrepreneurs an opportunity to work with Interactuar’s design centre to create an appropriate business image, logo, business cards, uniforms etc. Together for Colombia then took on the project as part of our crowd-funding venture and promised to give additional support to Àngela and Bertulfo, as well as the other ‘Bringing Hope’ beneficiaries. Bertulfo and Ángela, who had been looking for ways to regain some of the business they had lost in Ibague, leapt at the opportunity that seemed to have fallen from the sky right into their laps!

 Since the project began, Arepas de Chócolo 1A has come on leaps and bounds. The biggest change has been location. Previously the business was run from a tiny house constructed from mud concrete and cane frame, where the arepas were cooked on a one plate hob and served through a crumbling window hatch. Bertulfo, a cleaning fanatic, was ashamed of his own business, which would have been immediately shut down by the food standards and health agency should they ever have visited.

The new premises are obviously a huge joy to the couple. With brightly painted walls, beautifully shining equipment and spotless surfaces (that Bertulfo has scrubbed and scrubbed without the fear of causing collapse), Ángela and Bertulfo have been able to build a brand that they are proud of. Through the training seminars that your donations have helped to provide, the couple have learnt accountancy, marketing, hygiene, costing, pricing and food handling skills that are now an indispensable part of the business model.

'At one time, we had a woman working with us who we simply weren’t able to continue paying for her work. We were expecting her to be angry and leave, but when we told her she said she understood and still wanted to help. She ended up staying with us for a year, with no pay! Can you imagine?!’. And funnily yes, I can imagine. Being around people like this, who have turned their livelihood into an art and into a passion, makes you realise how powerful your help is. Ángela and Bertulfo came to Medellín looking for any way to turn their lives around. What they found was an unexpected opportunity, some much needed support and a love and passion for what they do.

Your help has been, and continues to be, a crucial part of the success of Arepas 1A. From Àngela, Bertulfo and as ever, from us at Together for Colombia, thank you for all you have given and continue to give in our quest to provide sustainable alleviation of poverty for small business owners in Colombia!

The arepas are shaped in metal rings
The arepas are shaped in metal rings
Angela and Bertulfo
Angela and Bertulfo


La Feria de Las Flores in Medellin
La Feria de Las Flores in Medellin

Dear Friends of Comuna 13,

I hope this message finds you well and that 2015 is so far bringing good health, happiness and prosperity to you!

With August right around the corner we are getting excited here in Medellín for La Fería de las Flores. The fería is emblematic of the ‘Paisa’ (regional) culture and is celebrated for 10 magical days across the whole city. There are about 130 events throughout the barrios (neighbourhoods) of Medellín, including live music competitions and shows, horse fairs, and a number of the most spectacular flower parades. The excitement is palpable in the city and I for one certainly can’t wait for the festivities to begin!

We are currently working on a resource allocation mini-project with the Bringing Hope beneficiaries. By working with them to reassess their needs according to their changing business situations, we will be able to better define how the donation funds can be spent in the most effective way.

Whilst the assessment is getting underway, I’d like to take this opportunity to present to you another one of the Comuna 13 beneficiaries - Margarita Maria Echandía.

María, whose business is called ‘Manualidades MyM’, makes handmade jewelry and accessories that she sells to distributors in the city centre. María only had one client when she started her small business 21 years ago, making ribbon flowers with her sister. As the years went on, María’s business expanded to more diversified products, a larger production team and a wider client base. She built a network through recommendations by word of mouth and has had to continue diversifying her products to keep up with demand – although her most popular product is still the original ribbon roses.

Three years ago María discovered she had a tumor in her brain. It was, imaginably, an incredibly difficult time for María and her family, as she provides for not only her own children, but also helps care for her parents, nieces and nephews. Thankfully with the help of her God and support of her family María survived was able to continue working.

María lives for the enjoyment, and creative and emotional outlet that her work brings her and now is hoping to invest in a specialised machine to increase her output. To further diversify and strengthen her business she has also started making handmade chocolates for special occasions.

We hope, with your help, to give María the financial means to grow the wonderful business she has already started. She has shown amazing courage, tenacity and huge dedication to an occupation that she obviously loves.

As donations continue to come in we will keep you updated on María’s progress.

As ever, we are incredibly grateful for the contributions that you make and would love to hear from you with any questions or comments.


So until next time, take care!

Margarita's hand made necklaces
Margarita's delicious looking newest product!
The most popular product remains the ribbon roses
The most popular product remains the ribbon roses
Margartia Maria
Margartia Maria

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Organization Information

Corporacion Interactuar

Project Leader:
Daniel Marulanda
Medellin, Antioquia Colombia
$2,997 raised of $10,000 goal
55 donations
$7,003 to go
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