Looking back at my life, I realize that (for better or worse) I have a tendency to be a guinea pig. I was the first to graduate from Washington Elementary School (an experimental bilingual program), I was the first high school exchange student to Mante, Mexico through the Boulder-Mante Sister City Project, I was among the first students at the University of Colorado earn a certificate in International Media, and I will be in the third graduating class to receive a master’s in development practice from Columbia University. So, it should not come as a surprise that I will be in the first cohort of master’s students to spend my summer field placement in Colombia (with an -o- not a -u-).
This summer, I will spend approximately 8 weeks working with an afro-Colombian community inside the Uramba-Bahía Málaga National Natural Park, which my program describes as the “most productive calving grounds for whales in the world…notable for its high level of endemism.” Despite the natural beauty of the surroundings, residents of Bahía Málaga suffer from debilitating poverty, lacking access to clean water and sanitation, and with minimal access to education and critical health services. A full description of the field placement is available here (see PROJECT PROFILE #5).
Key goals of my interaction with the Community Council of La Plata – Bahía Málaga will be to:
- Develop community council’s strategic relations with the public and private sectors of Buenaventura and the department of Valle.
- Develop a strategy to build the capacities and opportunities that will allow the council to create knowledge-based autonomy (managing and channeling opportunities for the long term empowerment of community leaders).
- Build alliances to strengthen ecological and cultural tourism and forestry enterprises.
The program description exceeds any expectations I had for my summer field placement. I am excited to work with and learn from the people of Bahía Málaga.
More information about Bahía Málaga: http://bahiamalaga.org