Wednesday, September 3, 2014

A Little Backstory....

So I realized the other day that in all of my excitement of leaving the United States and arriving in Colombia that I have neglected to really talk about the organization that I'm working with and it's history in Colombia! So here's a quick post on that aspect of things...

As I'm pretty sure that everyone knows by now, I'm currently serving with the Peace Corps in Barranquilla, Colombia. Now, most (if not all) Americans have heard of the Peace Corps. This organization, which was started in 1961 by former President John F. Kennedy, is a volunteer program run the United States government that has three main goals:

1. To help interested countries in meeting their needs for trained men and women;
2. To help promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the people severed; and
3. To help promote a better understanding of other people on the part of Americans

Needless to say, this program has been a huge success! To date, over 215,000 Americans have participated and served in about 140 countries around the world. Currently, approximately 7,000 volunteers are serving in approximately 70 countries, with almost 40% of those helping with projects that are education focused. Along with education, Peace Corps also has ongoing projects in the health, environment, community economic development, youth development, and agriculture sectors. Almost 50% of current volunteers are serving in Africa, with the rest spread out through Central/South America, Asia, Eastern Europe, the Caribbean, and some Pacific Islands.

Peace Corps has been involved with sending volunteers to Colombia since the beginning of it's existence. The first volunteers starting serving in country in 1961 and were still helping until 1981, when the Peace Corps officially finished it's phasing out of volunteers and closed Colombia as a country of service. During the 1980's and 1990's, there was lots of unrest between the Colombian government and various terrorists/guerrilla militant groups (headed by FARC), causing major security concerns. As the 2000's came around, the presence of FARC and other groups started to diminish, causing Colombia to return to a collected and peaceful state.

With this in mind, the Peace Corps started to send volunteers back to this beautiful country in 2010. It was identified that the greatest need within the country was that of English education. The Colombian government enacted an initiative back in 2004 that stated that all public schools in Colombia would be bi-lingual by 2019. With this in mind, the Peace Corps, through the education sector of the program, began a Teaching English for Livlihoods (TEL) program along the Caribbean coast in the cities of Barranquilla, Cartegena, and Santa Marta. These areas of the country successfully passed the necessary security and needs assessments that were conducted. This area of the country has a very vibrant and welcoming culture that make it a perfect place for volunteers to both serve and connect with the local communities.

Hopefully this helps clear up any confusion that anyone may have had! So far this experience has been everything that I've wanted and more! Look for more posts in the upcoming days as so much has happened that I want to update everyone on! 

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