Young boy aids by cleaning the coastal area!
Humanitarian Aid and Environmental Change in Punta Arena
Punta Arena is a potential paradise beach town 6 minutes from Cartagena on the island of Tierra Bomba. With the only white beaches within the bay of Cartagena, the town of roughly 1,000 to 1,200 inhabitants has been hit hard economically during the pandemic. What historically used to be a town of fishermen has morphed into a tourist haven, its beachfront dotted with restaurants and swanky hotels. People in Punta Arena, as in the other 3 towns of the island of Tierra Bomba, relied heavily on tourism for their means of subsistence. Before Covid-19 nearly 76% of island dwellers already suffered from poverty and hunger, and 95% of them depended on fishing and tourism for their livelihoods. Not to mention the island´s lack of running water, sewage or health systems due to longstanding neglect from local and national governments.
In order to help combat hunger and enable island dwellers to remain safely at home during the lockdown, which started in March 2020, the Fundación Bahía reached more than 5,750 homes in the islands of Tierra Bomba, Isla Fuerte and San Bernardo with 4,250 kilos of fish, 1,500 basic food provisions, Covid-19 prevention instructions and more than 1,000 face masks donated, thanks to the generosity of our supporters. In July, we revised our humanitarian aid approach and decided to combine it with volunteer work, bringing environmental purpose and sense of self-worth to beneficiaries in the communities of Tierra Bomba, as well as preparing them for when tourism reopens.
We have successfully implemented an innovative approach to humanitarian aid delivery by combining it with environmental actions at the core of our mission. Thanks to an alliance with SOS Cartagena, we were able to provide food for these vulnerable communities. SOS Cartagena delivered 250 lunch boxes daily which fed families in our volunteer program, who in turn benefited the environment and their entire community by cleaning up. Now, we are providing the environmental volunteer families with monthly food provisions thanks to the generosity of the Tamarin Foundation which supports the humanitarian endeavor as well as the environmental concern over plastic pollution in our ocean.
A clean and thriving environment means better health for all. If the pandemic has shown us anything, it is the inherent and unavoidable link between the environment and human health. In Punta Arena, working with local recyclers, young environmental guards and displaced Venezuelans, we jointly constructed an environmental action plan to help: recover and protect the vital mangrove ecosystem of the Ciénaga la Salina; reinforce environmental education and awareness to combat plastic pollution through improved consumer choice, separation at the source and recycling practices; and, clean-up of informal dump sites, streets, trails, fronts, backyards and lots.
After 3 months of the project implementation in Punta Arena the following has been accomplished:
- 92 well-nourished families thanks to the SOS Cartagena lunch boxes and to the monthly food provisions currently in place, coming together in a motivated and novel environmental volunteer program
- 5 informal dump sites around Ciénaga la Salina cleared
- 22.8 tons of solid residue removed from the community and the island, which included:
- o 1.6 tons of recycled material from which local recyclers profited
- o 7 tons of glass residue removed with the help of Veolia given to CORECA recyclers
- Increased environmental and community awareness
- Recovering ecosystems, cleaner streets, beachfront and town with help from the entire community
- Empowered recyclers and guard youths whose efforts are appreciated by all
- Education by example with clean-up efforts and an artistic fish sculpture donated by Fundación Bahía to encourage recycling in children
- Overall improved community well-being and health.
In view of the changes in Punta Arena, the community of Caño del Oro in Tierra Bomba asked for our support. We began the environmental volunteer program there for a month on August 21st, with the aid of SOS Cartagena and another daily 250 well-prepared, balanced lunch rations to benefit vulnerable families.
Apart from supporting continuous cleaning and educational efforts in both communities, we held an artistic and environmental workshop in Punta Arena to help build and paint signs made from recycled materials for marking recovered dump spots and to encourage inhabitants to protect their environment and biodiversity.
This model and approach empower not only members of the volunteer programs but the entire community, setting forth peer to peer controls for the sustainability of the actions and positive results in time. “Now that we have all put forth the effort to clean up our community, there is no way we will allow any more garbage to pollute our town!” says Ms. Coneo, community leader in Punta Arena.
There is still a long way to go! We definitely need your support to pursue our social and environmental work so please contribute to our cause and help us continue to supply vital technical assistance, clean up implements and educational workshops to these island communities in our joint fight against plastic pollution at sea. When possible, please visit and enjoy Punta Arena´s beaches, mangroves, bird watching tours led by local environmental guards and follow the trail of the biggest clean-up during the pandemic!
Please follow us on Instagram: @fundacion_bahiaFacebook: @fundacion bahia de cartagena Visit www.fundacionbahia.org
Many thanks to all of you!
Food provisions for the environmental volunteers!
Leader and F. Bahia representative w/ provisions
Organizing the provision delivery to families
Food for 92 families for 1 month.
United families clean up each day.
Local girl painting sign with environmental note
During the environmental art workshop Pta Arena
Artist at work during workshop Pta Arena
Do not fish with dinamite!
Artists at work - environmental art workshop
Empowered women fight plastic pollution each day!
Everyday clean ups!
Proud and engaged community.
Beach clean up.
Coastal clean up!
More clean ups.
Empowered women clean up the streets each day.
Before and after - informal dumpster 1
Before and after - informal dump 2
Before and after - informal dump 3
Cleaning the beach.
Youngsters clean up the beach.