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