I was picked up by Manolo, GGF's VP of Strategy, on the eve of February 2nd to attend a dinner with 100 people of whom I've never met. It was like halloween- everyone was in costume to enjoy a pre-Carnaval feast. Barranquilla's Carnaval is one of Colombia's most important folkloric celebrations, and one of the biggest carnivals in the world with traditions dating back to the 19th century. It's a spectacular display of Colombian custom and colors with a Caribbean twist.
After dinner, we all got on a bus to the pre-Carnaval parade, where we stood in line and danced in the street for hours. Moving forward while dancing was definitely a new concept for me, and I'm sure I stood out as not being a local. Nonetheless, that's me in the below photo having an absolute blast! I loved that this was a parade for the people--no huge corporations buying out space for performance, just local people free styling and enjoying themselves.
The next morning, I woke up bright and early to speak with a group of volunteers at a local nonprofit, the South English Cultural Foundation. The organization was actually founded by the woman providing childcare for our family during our stay in Colombia. Their mission is to address social issues in the home through English education, and empower young kids who come from households of domestic violence to dream big. The volunteers were amazing and insightful. I was most interested to learn how they generate sustainable revenue streams, how they've been able to help get the organization off the ground and what they find most compelling about their volunteer experience.
We spent time wandering around some of the homes SECF works with. Inside, there were dirt floors and none of the kids wore shoes. It's the kind of place where you keep your purse and cell phone at a distance, yet the families were so hospitable. I was happy to have brought my son, Hayden and daughter, Lily along for them to see how other children live.
Upon arriving back at home, I took a long walk to let everything I'd seen sink in. The previous 12 hours were fun, inspiring and eye-opening, and the next day was spent relaxing at the beach.
More to come!