1: April 5th, 2011 I’m on my way to Colombia, the last place I ever though I would be. When I was told that I would be traveling to one of the most violent and unstable countries in South America ,I’ll admit that I was a bit scared. Even though I know that the country is in dire need of help, it worries me that there is so much violence surrounding the drug cartels, the kidnappings and the people’s hatred towards Americans. With all that aside, I am determined to help to the best of my ability. The country is poor and the unemployment rates are enormous. The country is plagued with drug violence and riots against the government and the FARC" gorilla movement. The life expectancy has plummeted and children are dying of disease because they are unable to seek medical attention. There are so many emotions that I have been feeling as I near my arrival that I am unsure of how well I can handle this trip but I made a commitment to helping those who need it most. To make a difference, even if its just once person, thats enough for me. | One of Colombia's beautiful beaches. The white sand and crystal clear water attracts people from all over but don't be fooled by the beauty. Colombia is in a terrible state. Hundreds have died, families have lost everything and corruption still runs the people's lives.
2: 65 % of the population is below the poverty level and has the highest unemployment rate in Latin America | Roughly 17% of the population is homeless. That comes out to about 9,654,722 people.
3: The houses along the streets look like a cardboard city made of scrap wood and sheet metal ect. I would have never thought that someone could live with so little. | It looked like something out of a movie. the streets lined with broken down houses and children running loose in the piles of trash and belongings that crowded that street.
4: Because of the poverty in Colombia malnutrition is a wide spread problem. | It is estimated that 500,000 children under 5 have acute malnutrition and 30% of children suffer from chronic malnutrition
5: April 7th, 2011 After settling into the place that I would be staying during my time here I decided to go around town and see for myself the standards of living in Colombia. It wasn’t long before I started seeing people living on the streets and run down homes that looked like cardboard boxes stacked on top of each other. I knew that Colombia was a poor country but I had not realized just how poor until that moment. The kids that I came in contact with looked sickly and to thin. Due to the lack of income from the parents they are unable to feed their children and made it unlikely that these kids would live a long life or a happy one at that. Almost every kid was severely malnourished and all I wanted to do take them back to my place and feed every last one of them. The other thing that struck me was the fear and despair in the people’s eyes as they walked down the streets. Because of the political protests, the drug cartel and the gorillas that have seemed to have taken over the country everyone was on edge. All eyes were on me, the outsider who didn’t seem to belong. It gave me an uneasy feeling but I continued to do my job and so that maybe one day these people can have a better life.
7: Carlos Castano, founder of the ACCU ( a extreme right paramilitary organization). He admitted to being responsible for the Mapiripán massacre. He later founded the AUC who is currently at war against the FARC . It is said that Castano is responsible for smuggling at least 17 tons of cocaine into the United States.
8: In Colombia, there are major conflicts surrounding the drug cartels and drug trafficking.
9: The Colombian government efforts to stop drug trafficking and production has been a long and deadly process. Despite these efforts, Colombia is still one of the suppliers of cocaine to the United States.
12: A Colombian poster protesting the corruption in their country. The translation is: "the Colombian people living under dictatorship camouflaged massacres committed by the state through its paramilitary tool"
15: The pride that the people of Colombia have shown is astonishing. Despite all the troubles they are faced with on a daily basis they push through and continue their fight for a better life.
16: April 15th, 2011 I have been both amazed and terrified by what I have experienced here in Colombia. I have been working hard with many families giving them food, water and helping to rebuild and give support to those most affected by the drug wars. It shocks me to see how willing some of these people are to accept my help and how strong they are for continuing to push through and make the best of the situation. The other day I witnessed a riot down the street outside of my hotel. Some of the protest are peaceful but some are far from it. Colombia is known for its violence when it comes to protesting the government. At first it was a peaceful protest, people painted in bright colors holding signs asking for change and the end of corruption in their government.. There was screaming and shouting, the loud pops of guns and the smell of smoke filled the entire room. I have never been so scared in my entire life and I almost considered leaving right then and there. But I knew I couldn’t. Even though I know I have but myself in an extremely dangerous position, I could not leave the families I have been helping behind. All of my hard work and effort would have gone to waste and the difference I have been making in these peoples lives out weights the risk I am taking.
18: Colombians riot over pyramid scandals that have left thousands with almost nothing.
19: Colombian Vice-President (below) told the people of Colombia that nothing in this world was free.
20: It isn't enough to talk about peace, one must believe it. And it isn't enough to to believe in it, one must work for it. - Eleanor Roosevelt
21: Colombian coffee is popular in the United States. Its bold and rich flavor makes it a high seller in almost any coffee shop in the country. | The orchid Cattleya trianae, named after the Colombian naturalist José Jerónimo Triana. It is said by natives to be the most beautiful flower in the world and best represents Colombia as a whole. | The reason I decided to bring cocaine is because it is such an important influence in these people lives. It can be found all over Colombia and although it causes many problems for the people of this country it is also the only way some of them make a living. | A R T I F A C T S
22: Ancient Colombian artifact that was thought to be worn by women as earrings. | The official flag of Colombia consists of three colors, yellow the largest of the three represents the land, blue represents the water and borders of the country and red for the people who have died for their country.
24: Document accusing the government of placing soldiers into illegal paramilitary groups. This is just another example of how the government has betrayed the people's trust and why they are asking for reform.
25: April 26th, 2011 This is my final day in Colombia and i must admit that i am very sad to be leaving. This trip as been a wonder experience and i have learned so much during my time spent here. I wish that i could extend my trip so that i can continue helping these people. Maybe one day i can return and finish what i have started but for now i must say good-bye.