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  • Writer's pictureMauricio Ibañez


Updated: Sep 24, 2021

Several of us at LBH Colombia have been volunteering and enjoying nature trips to reach far away communities in need of help. These trips are more of a mutual discovery and have allowed us to learn more of the invisible part of the country for the urban people.

One of these experiences took us to the middle of the palm and banana region in the middle of Magdalena province, an area not far from Ciénaga, but due to poor roads, floodings, and collapsed bridges, it seems to lie a whole day away. The town visited was San Juan de Palos Prietos, a small village implanted and living out of the huge plantations of palms (for palm oil processing) and bananas, all for the export markets. Palos Prietos cannot be found at a local Waze map, so getting into the right track was already difficult. The Colombian Army assisted us, as well as team of employees from Drummond, and from various palm oil processing companies. The area is broken by various streams and rivers which come down from Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, vigilant to the East of these flat lands that extend all the way to  Ciénaga Grande, a large mangrove lake to the west. Our bus had to be lightered at every bridge and in some places of the cross country track, because the mud made it sink too much. The village has one sole school, which needs much refitting and furniture, and it has a stripped area which appeared to resemble some sort of soccer field for the children, where eventually pigs and dogs also play and search for food. That Saturday morning, amidst the tropical heat at its fullest, children and parents (mostly mothers) waited patiently for the team of doctors organized by the Foundation (Forging a better future). A total of 400 plus cases were attended, including dental revision, care and training. Several Foundations do their best to invite private companies or just volunteers to assist. LBH Colombia contributes to the Foundation since more than 3 years ago, in the dental care area, providing supplies for as many as 200 children at a time. Organizing these children in line, then in the classroom the get training, is a challenge already, as it seemed for them this is such an exciting event for a Saturday morning. The children were happy, and willing to cooperate when cleaning time wasdue, and just playing like any other children from 30 or 40 years ago.

The other experience has taken several of our Santa Marta office “mosketeers” in their free time on bike, on a cross country route up the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, much closer to the city life and to the beautiful landscapes of this mountain range. Need to catch a shower on one waterfall? No problem you have many available to do so when the going gets tough. Further up, at around 1500 meters above sea level, you reach a small Indian village with one room school for 8-10 children and one teacher to do all the job for himself. They need materials, and supplies, and a bit of a touch on the infrastructure. Like the Palos Prietos children and people, all very friendly and appreciative. Some of these children need to walk 1 or even 2 hours each way from home to school every day. There are other communities around, and we are determined to pay another visit, evaluate our contribution, and while we do this, enjoy the landscapes of an unknown Colombia.

Our Santa Marta mosketeers made me promised them to come along next time, so I am already on my bike training sessions.

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