From building housing for people living in vulnerable conditions to the promotion of education, Colombian organizations work on humanitarian causes in the country.

Poverty, education, health and living are the main areas that many nonprofit organizations in Colombia work on in order to contribute to the betterment of the Colombian community.

According to the Departamento Administrativo Nacional de Estadística (DANE), 784,000 people in Colombia prevailed out of poverty in 2014. In the same year, extreme poverty also experienced a decrease of 407,000 people.

These results represent a reduction in the poverty rate of Colombia, making them the lowest results in the past 13 years.

Nonprofit organizations form a part that contributes to the betterment of the Colombian society. Here are 8 Colombian nonprofit organizations that are making a difference:

Federación Nacional de Cafeteros de Colombia

Considered one of the biggest rural nonprofit organizations in the world, the Federación Nacional de Cafeteros de Colombia works for the betterment of the Colombian coffee farmers.

Representing more than 563,000 families, the Federación Nacional de Cafeteros de Colombia works to improve the life quality of Colombian coffee producers by optimizing production costs and maximizing the coffee quality.

Fundación Antonio Restrepo Barco

Responding to the issues of a country that has different social conditions and tending to social problems are some of the activities that members of the Fundación Antonio Restrepo Barco do.

The foundation believes that the families living in crisis areas are more afflicted by social issues and problems. Fundación Antonio Restrepo Barco forwards projects related to the protection of children rights, education, health and social and regional development of attention to vulnerable communities.

Fundación Juan Felipe Gómez Escobar

This foundation, also known as “La Juanfe,” works to bring a better life to the children and young people from Cartagena, Colombia. They do this by providing health care, and by bringing psychological and affective care.
The entity works with various partners that are national and international businesses, and public and private agencies.

Asociación Metrópoli Colombia

This association works for the creation of spaces where people living under vulnerable conditions could experience personal growth, the transformation of their surroundings, and equal opportunities through education and culture.

Through the program “Espacios de encuentro para la construcción de la vida y la paz,” Metrópoli Colombia proffers the availability of spaces that provide access to education, wellness, arts and culture as a means of improving the life quality of children and young people.

Corporación Día de la Niñez

This is a nonprofit organization that promotes the importance that childhood has in the development and progress of the community and families, especially in communities that live under poverty and/or violence.

They have as a mission to promote children games in the familiar and communitarian aspects.

Fundación OCMAES

This is a nonprofit foundation that works to promote people’s talent. Fundación OCMAES foments the education among young Colombians that have an academic potential, but do not have the economical facilities to afford professional programs or continue with their studies.

Through the “Programa de Apoyo Universitario,” the foundation gives scholarships to young Colombians with academic potential.


This organization improves the life quality of the communities living in vulnerable conditions by the construction of houses for these Colombian communities.

The foundation is compromised with integral development and brings security, identity and the sense of social belonging.

Fundación Terpel

They work to bring quality education to Colombian children. The entity implements programs that develop competitions in leadership, mathematics and language for children and young people living under vulnerable conditions.

Diana Fernanda Leon

Sources: DANE, Federación Nacional de Cafeteros de Colombia, Fundación Antonio Restrepo Barco, Fundación Juan Felipe Gómez Escobar, Metrópoli Colombia, Corporación Día de la Niñez, Fundación Ocmaes, Fundación Servivienda, Fundación Terpel,
Photo: Fundación Juan Felipe Gómez Escobar

Years of Violence
The infamous FARC terrorist organization in Colombia has the potential to end its years of violence and reign of terror with probable peace talks this month.

The FARC, or the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, has been responsible for the deaths of over 200,000 people in Colombia over the last 50 years since its establishment in 1964. The terrorist group has been notorious for violently attacking both civilians and significant political figures in the country throughout the years, as means of intimidation, gaining power and generally creating havoc.

The “revolutionary” group has been seemingly unstoppable through means of military force or political means, though the Colombian government has continued its efforts to end the excessive violence. However, lately, the government has discussed a potential ceasefire from the military in the midst of “peace talks” with the group. A discussion like this has not happened since the summer of 2012.

The question is, will these peace talks be successful and how long will said ceasefire last? Ending violence at the hand of the FARC have been attempted numerous times since 1964, while no solutions have been long-term. Issues with poverty and corruption in the government have led to continuous growth in the organization over generations, and many scholars argue that these attempts at peace will once again be unsuccessful.

What does this mean for the people of Colombia, and the overall security of Latin America in general? Most of the deaths at the hand of FARC have been innocent civilians in Colombia, many of which live in poorer and less secure regions of the country. The terrorist group is infamous for invading small communities, killing and torturing people and creating massive destruction. If said peace talks are successful, the 50 years of insecurity and terror for the people of Colombia may finally come to an end.

Alexandrea Jacinto

Sources: Foreign Policy, BBC
Photo: Caribbean Digital Network

Taking Steps to Eliminate River Blindness
The Carter Center in Atlanta is working to make the eradication of river blindness a worldwide goal for the World Health Organization (WHO), as the WHO determines which diseases will appear on the world health agendas.

River blindness is caused by a parasite that is spread through the bites of black flies. The flies breed in and near fast flowing rivers, which is where the disease gets its name. The larvae of the parasite causes skin irritation, itching and a range of eye diseases, including blindness in the worst cases.

People in 36 countries are at risk for contracting river blindness. About 99% of the 17.7 million cases of larvae infection are from Africa. Nigeria is the most endemic country in Africa, with reportedly half of the world’s cases.

That is why Nigerian businessman Sir Emeka Offor gave the Carter Center $10 million to aid to eliminate river blindness in his home country. This is on top of the quarter million he donated several years back. This is a huge turning point in dealing with the disease.

The Carter Center has been working with the Nigerian Health Ministry for twenty years. The program uses community-based health education and administers the only drug that can treat river blindness, Mectizan. In fact, the company that makes Mectizan made a commitment to donate the drug until every case of river blindness is solved. The donation from Sir Offor means that the Carter Center can reach more people, especially those in difficult areas to reach. Coverage will increase, meaning that the Carter Center will be closer to reaching their goal of eliminating river blindness by 2020. In 2014, 7 million Nigerians were treated.

The Carter Center has already been successful in Latin America. Colombia was the first country to be declared free of river blindness in 2013, with Ecuador following  in 2014. Both Guatemala and Mexico are currently going through the verification process to be declared river blindness-free by the WHO. The only areas left to treat are hard-to-reach areas of the Amazon in Venezuela and Brazil.

If the Carter Center can prove with this latest donation that their program is successful in the most plagued country, Nigeria, on top of their success in Latin America, then the WHO will be more likely to join the movement and target river blindness as a disease to fight.

– Katherine Hewitt

Sources: AP News, Carter Center 1, Carter Center 2, Inside Philanthropy
Photo: GHIF

Over five million Colombians have been displaced since the nation’s armed conflict began over 50 years ago. Of this figure, two million Colombians under the age of 26 have been displaced between the years 1985 and 2013. The Colombian government and the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) have been in peace talks since November 2012. In order to move toward progress and peace, the relationship between the Colombian government and its citizens must incorporate youth inclusion.

In February 2015, the FARC announced that it would discharge soldiers under 15 years of age.

The FARC, criminal gangs, and other organized crime groups have forced young adults to participate in the conflict. Lack of education and employment opportunities, combined with high poverty and conflict, create a space where joining organized crime is the logical choice for protection and wealth. For this reason, focusing on youth inclusion as a sustainable peace model is exigent.

Unfortunately, it was released in March 2015 that youth unemployment (14 to 28 years) is at 15 percent in Colombia. It has stayed steadily around this figure for one year.

National and local government efforts have tried to reintegrate adolescents who were involved with the FARC. For example, the Colombia Youth department is a space for young adults to be involved with public policy and dialogue within the national government. On Colombia Joven’s website, the department highlights its values as: honesty, respect, responsibility, compromise, loyalty, tolerance and solidarity. All form the idea of ensuring youth participation.

As a way to encourage youth inclusion for those who were displaced or involved with the conflict, young victims of the conflict in the department of Meta (located in the middle of Colombia) have come together to create the Department Youth Roundtable (comprised of 5,000 members) from 29 municipalities in the department. The organized meetings are for professional and educational development.

The Meta department created the Intergenerational Youth Public Policy initiative in 2010 (supported by numerous organizations including USAID and UN Population Fund) in order to improve youth socio-political conditions by the year 2019. This organization was governmentally spearheaded from the Public Policy for Youth organization under the Department Youth Roundtable. In its published report, “Meta: Vivir al Derecho,” it discusses youth vulnerability and potential to engage in illegal activities. The goal is to create conditions that guarantee life, integral human development, adequate educational inclusion, work, and civic and socio-cultural development in the department of Meta.

Colombia is making clear strides to acknowledge the importance of including youth, but the lagging youth unemployment rate form challenges for the future of the state. Despite these advancements, it is difficult to implement outreach policies to reintegrate ex-child soldiers because of their experiences. Some feel marginalized and continue to seek illegal activities as a living. The surging organized crime network known as BACRIM is comprised of new offenders and demobilized militia members. This poses as a major threat to the security of the state and the future of the young adult population.

Nevertheless, displaced youth and other victims of the conflict have demonstrated resilience through their formation of regional youth development projects. Based on these efforts and others, youth inclusion strategies are occurring at a productive triangular process, from the grassroots level, department/municipal level and the national government level. In this way, sustainable peace may be attained.

– Courteney Leinonen

Sources: BBC 1, BBC 2, Colombia Joven 1, Colombia Joven 2, Juntos Construyendo, OECD, UNFPA
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Colombia
Poverty in Colombia remains an issue but progress has been made. In the 1980s, the capital city of Colombia, Bogota, started to implement a program of economic stratification of urban populations. The city ranked populations from one to six, one being the most poor and six being the wealthiest. Essentially, the stratification was supposed to direct city officials where to charge more for basic services like water and sanitation, and where to charge less. This program was officially codified into law in 1994.

Proponents of the program, like former Bogota mayor Enrique Peñalusa, say that the stratification only helps the government to serve the poor better by focusing infrastructure projects and providing cheaper services. Opponents, however, say that it makes mobility for the poor more difficult by legally separating them out, as well as increasing stigma around poverty.

When mapped out by strata, it is clear to see the physical separation of economic classes in the capital city. The wealthiest populations are clumped together in the northern part of the city while the poorest are in the south and along the outer edges. The distribution of wealth in the city is compartmentalized, depreciating an already underserved population.

Armed conflict in Colombia has been persistent for this century and half of the last. Due to this, Colombia has one of the highest rates of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the world, reaching over five million in 2013. Many of these IDPs move to cities, especially Bogota. This shift has led to a large population without housing or resources, creating slums and shantytowns in and around the city.

Especially significant when looking at urbanization in Bogota is the development of a much poorer, extremely marginalized class on the outer edges of the city, where slums have grown significantly. Two of the largest slums, Altos de Cazuca and Ciudad Bolivar, house hundreds of thousands of people and are host to a myriad of social problems, most notably violent crime and poor access to essential resources like clean water, health care and education.

Conflict in the country has caused and contributed to countless problems, not in the least a robust drug trafficking industry. While peace talks with armed guerilla groups and narcotraficantes are ongoing, the outcome and impact for the urban and displaced poor that have been affected but not directly involved in the operations of these groups is not clear.

Levels of poverty have declined overall in Colombia in the last decade. Even more promising is the dramatic decrease in urban poverty in the two biggest cities in the country: Bogota and Medellin. While the legal stratification of urban citizens and rapid rates of urbanization have contributed to poverty in Bogota, the progress made against urban poverty is substantial. From the years 2005 to 2012, poverty has only fallen 7.6 percent in small cities in Colombia, but in Bogota and Medellin the rate has fallen 23.3 percent.

Caitlin Huber

Sources: UNHCR, UCL, ABColombia, Business Insider, World Bank, IFHP
Photo: Pasion y Vida

The range of wealth in Colombia is vast. The richest people are six socioeconomic brackets higher than the poorest, and a fraction of the size. 88 percent of the population belong to the lower half of the pyramid.

The Colombian government wants to erase the gap between the wealthy and the poor and they want to use the Internet to do so. The plan is to connect 63 percent of the population to the Internet by 2018.

When the initiative began in 2010, 2.2 million people were connected to the Internet. Today, Colombia’s Ministry of Information and Communication Technology’s Live Digital Plan (Vive Digital) has increased that number to 8.8 million.

Diego Molano is Colombia’s minister for information and communications technology. He attributes the 2.5 million people lifted out of poverty in Colombia in the past three years to the program.

“When we connect, for example…a small school in the middle of the jungle to the Internet, those kids…have effectively the same opportunity to access the whole of information society—just like any kid in New York, London, or Paris,” Molano explains.

Molano recognizes, however, that connecting people to the Internet is not all that is needed. The Internet, he explains, is designed for the wealthy. It does not have applications for the rural shop-owner. “If you tried to sell Internet to them today…they say, ‘Why?’…no applications that impact their daily cash flow.”

The challenge becomes finding a way to provide Internet to Colombia’s poor rural populations as well as make it useful for them. To help with the challenge, Colombia has reached out to U.S. tech companies such as SAP, Google, Oracle and Facebook.

“Colombia is the perfect lab for them because poor people are already connected in this country,” Molano says.

One major issue, Molano has not addressed is that of electricity. In order to have Internet there needs to be access to electricity, and many parts of the country do not have that. An anonymous employee of Vive Digital told Colombia Reports that while he has delivered many computers to schools, a substantial portion have not been used because there was no access to electricity.

Colombia’s Internet initiative sees the equalizing power of the Internet, but is also finding challenges in its application.
“When you connect a potato grower in the Andean mountains, and he doubles his income thanks to Internet, you are reducing inequality,” Morano says, describing the ideal situation.

Julianne O’Connor

Sources: Colombia Reports, Washington Post
Photo: Elespectador

The banana company Chiquitawas founded in 1870 by Captain Lorenzo Dow Baker, and since then it has become the largest banana producer in the world. Underneath their popularity and production lies many controversies surrounding the company.

In 1998, the Cincinnati Enquirer published a piece about Chiquita’s business practices, which included the company using illegal pesticides, destroying villages to use their land and even using their transport ships to smuggle cocaine.

The Cincinnati Enquirer later recalled the articles and announced they would pay more than $10 million to avoid being sued by the company. Whether or not their information was true and obtained legally is still under question.

In 2009, Honduran President Manuel Zelaya was sent into exile and a coup took place. John Perkins and other activists believed there was a link between Chiquita and the coup.

Recently, the company has been sued by about 4,000 Colombians, who stated that the United Self Defense Forces (AUC), a parliamentary group that has gained funding from Chiquita,  has killed many of their family members. Because of Chiquita’s association with the group and the group’s work, family members of the deceased want the company to take responsibility.

Between 1997 and 2004, Chiquita gave $1.7 million to AUC, a group that the US and EU consider a terrorist organization, and has been held responsible for the torture and death of thousands of Colombians.

Between 1997 and 2004, Chiquita gave $1.7 million to the United-Self Defense Forces of Colombia, or AUC, a group that the U.S. and EU consider a terrorist organization, and has been held responsible for the torture and death of thousands of Colombians.

Chiquita has already paid a $25 million fine for their work with the AUC, but it is also believed that they were paying a “banana bribe” in order to use their relationship with AUC to control Colombia’s banana industry.

“Chiquita has great sympathy for the Colombians who suffered at the hands of these Colombian armed groups, but the responsibility for the violent crimes committed in that country belongs to the perpetrators, not to the innocent people and companies they extorted,” said Chiquita spokesperson Ed Lloyd.

The United States Circuit Court of Appeals decided that the decision was “outside the jurisdiction of U.S. courts.”

While the company managed to escape the claims against them since their inception, with this new lawsuit gaining attention, it is hopeful that Chiquita will think twice before getting their hands dirty again.

– Courtney Prentice

Sources: BBC News, The Wire, Chiquita, Democracy Now!, Ethical Consumer, FundingUniverse, Gawker, NBC News
Photo: BBC News

Colombian EducationThe Colombian government has struggled to improve educational standards within the region for some time. Only 37 percent of Colombian minors continued their educational studies or vocational training after high school in 2010. With young people representing nearly 30 percent of Colombia’s working age population, educational improvements could breed huge potential for the country’s economic development.

Although education statistics are not at the top of the global charts, President Juan Manuel Santos is determined to improve the Colombian education system and reach the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development standards.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, or OECD, is a coalition of 34 countries that has strict membership standards and identify with good economic and political standings. President Santos is especially interesting in attaining membership to bring Colombia more into the global economy.

Colombia first applied for membership with OECD in 2012, the same year that the government launched an educational initiative called “Everyone Learns.” The program targeted elementary school students in the poorest regions of the country, focusing on the areas of language and mathematics. It was able to reach 2.4 million students within the past couple of years.

The program also selected nearly 3,000 of Colombia’s top teachers to lead this program, which was fully supported by Education Minister Fernanda Campo. However, despite these efforts, Colombia’s educations statistics still fell below OECD averages.

In a new effort to improve educational standards so that Colombia can reach membership requirements and achieve greater economic growth, the government is launching a nationwide language initiative.

Colombia’s National Training Service, or SENA, has arranged for 102 volunteers from English-speaking countries such as Canada, the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom to teach English to thousands of students in Colombia’s vocational education sector. These volunteers are projected to educate and reach more than 4,500 students, while also working with and mentoring nearly 800 instructors who already work in Colombia for SENA.

According to SENA Director Fernando Rojas, these volunteers will be dispersed throughout the country, mostly in the states of Tolima, Antioquia and Valle del Cauca. The teams are expected to teach for two hours per day to a maximum of 25 students at a time to ensure individual attention.

The program is expected to receive another 100 or so volunteers to join later this year in order to expand the project and reach more students nationwide.

– Cambria Arvizo

Sources: Colombia Reports 1, Colombia Reports 2, The World Bank
Photo: Global Giving

Over the years, Colombia has rebuilt its image, moving past stereotypes of violence and drug lords ruling the country. Yet Colombia is facing setbacks in one of its main port cities, Buenaventura. Over 400,000 people call Buenaventura home, and yet more than 50,000 residents have been forced to leave during the last three years due to a myriad of reasons, including extortion and forced gang membership.

Colombia made efforts to build international relationships such as The Pacific Alliance, a group that attempts to unite Latin American countries like Peru and Chile with Asian countries to further their economic reach. Despite the steps forward, the signing ceremony took place in Cali, Colombia, as far from Buenaventura as possible.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the instability stems from a right wing paramilitary group, the United Self Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), that vowed to put down their arms a decade ago. This would have served as a peace agreement, but many members struggled to survive and picked up the weapons again to fight for survival.

The citizens of Buenaventura struggle to find solace, with 80 percent of its population living below the poverty line and 30 percent below the rate of unemployment, according to The Economist.

To make this danger more tangible, in late June, Colombian police found another dismembered body in the style of gang “chop houses.” This is the 15th body found in such a mutilated state.

Analysts believe the aggression stems from warring drugs gangs with the intent to control the territory and infiltrate the drug trade between southeast Asia and Central America between the sub groups of the national neo-paramilitary groups “Los Rastrojos” and “Los Urbeños.”

These displays of violence are not uncommon as the people of Buenaventura attempt to quietly avoid the brewing conflicts.

It is unlikely that Colombia will reach any sort of economic and social stability as the gang-related danger continues to brew. The country cannot progress when nearly half a million people are forced to live in fear.

– Elena Lopez

Sources: The Economist, Columbia Reports, WSJ
Photo: United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

The World Cup truly defines the idea of international competition. With the current 2014 World Cup only two weeks in, the viewership of clips, games, advertisements and the like are higher than any other international competition. According to, people have watched over 1.2 billion minutes of World Cup-affiliated advertisements, which is four times more views than the 2014 Super Bowl ads received.

FIFA research supports this, demonstrating numbers from the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. Over 3.2 billion people tuned in for at least one minute of the games, compared to 900 million that tuned into the Olympics Opening Ceremony, which is the most highly watched portion of the event.

3.2 billion people represents a large demographic of the world, many of whom represent developing countries. The World Cup represents the level of accessibility isolated countries have to opportunities even to just watch a game. There is a level of danger to watching games in some countries such as the 48 people who died in Kenya at a viewing party, but the dedication to their countries trumps their socio-economic status.

Few events draw the attention of billions, however the World Cup bonds nations. The U.S. typically has a low viewership rate of Major League Soccer in comparison to the NBA, NFL and NHL views.

The Miami Herald reported that 15.9 million Americans tuned into ESPN and Univision to watch the U.S. versus Ghana game, which is the second highest recorded viewership for a World Cup match in the U.S. It pales only to the U.S. versus England match of 2010 which held 17.1 million viewers. Trumping this, are the 18.2 million people who tuned in to watch the U.S. and Portugal battle it out, according to CNN Money.

The possible reason for this is the higher number of countries filming and reporting on the event, with 48 countries present and 34 ultra-high definition cameras watching from all angles. The more access countries have to the games, the more people who will flock to small businesses who play the games for those without home access.

Many of the countries competing represent developing countries, such as Colombia, Uruguay, Nigeria, Ghana and many others. These countries typically have low participation and success in other international competitions such as the Olympics, so they find their nationalism and support in the World Cup due to the accessibility and commonality of soccer.

The number of people tuning to watch their home countries fight for international competitive prestige shows that even in times of turmoil and struggle, nations can be united through watching a small, fuzzy screen of their teams playing everyone’s favorite sport.

— Elena Lopez

Sources: CNN, Latin Post, Miami Herald, Reuters
Photo: Zap 2 It