Latin America is one of the hardest-hit regions in the COVID-19 pandemic. In Colombia, the effects of the virus have placed significant strain on hospitals, and resulted in strict quarantine measures. In a country where 62.8 percent of workers operate in the informal economy, not being allowed to go outside has meant day laborers and street vendors have no form of income. The situation has escalated so drastically, that some people are displaying red flags from their homes to signify that they need help.
While the government has announced a stimulus package to support people, access to funds is limited or insufficient to provide people with basic amenities during this time. Prior to COVID-19, Colombia was already battling with high levels of homelessness and poverty rates; now, everyday people are in even greater need.
Many people want to take action and offer a helping hand to some of the most vulnerable community members. Despite city curfews, social distancing, and pico y cédula rules, there are still a number of channels to make a real difference, fast, and without compromising your safety. Here are five ways to contribute to your community from home, as told by not-for-profit organization, Proyecto Florecer:
One of the simplest and most effective ways to help your community is to keep on top of local news and changes. Being aware of the areas and people facing challenges is the first step to overcoming them. Especially if you live in a somewhat-removed location, where life hasn’t been disrupted recently, staying updated about the wider picture will mean that the people who are struggling don’t lose visibility at this crucial time.
Whether reading the local news, chatting with your neighbors or organizing Whatsapp groups, ensuring that you’re part of regular conversations about what’s happening near you is extremely powerful. You may also find that you make a new, valuable connection like someone who is already contributing to the community that you can get involved with. Likewise being informed means that you can better understand people’s situations – for example, the repercussions that decisions made by the government have on communities – and take informed action.
Some of the best online resources to keep up to date about Colombia include:
Ministerio de Salud
Human Rights Watch
The Bogotá Post
Participate on social media
Similar to staying informed, being active on social media ensures that people and organizations get the necessary exposure to help others. Following charities, NGOs, volunteer programs, and community leaders is great to get an overview of things going on near you. Simply ‘liking’ a post could have a snowball effect and spread a charitable message. Alternatively, tagging, linking, and sharing content from social initiatives helps them get the momentum to assist people in need on a long-term basis.
Proyecto Florecer’s Instagram is a great place to start!
Of course, you could also create your own content. Perhaps you want to share your experience of Colombia lately through a blog post or video – try adding a call-to-action at the end, asking people to donate, volunteer, and generally raise awareness of the problems that are occurring. Social media is equally useful to find community leaders or local influential figures. Search terms or hashtags like ‘voluntario [your location]’ or ‘comunidad [your location]’ and browse the results for people requesting or offering support. You can then reach out to them directly and build an online connection to meaningfully contribute.
Give away clothes
Colombia doesn’t have clear ways to give clothes to people in need, however, there is a consistent demand for clothing in low-income barrios. Clothes give people protection, dignity, and are a basic human need. In a fast-fashion world, spare items can go a long way to help all sorts of communities.
The team at Proyecto Florecer are collecting and delivering donated clothes for single-mother families in Barrio Trinidad, Medellín. So long as pieces are washed, in good condition, and non-perishable, things like sweaters, jackets, pants, shirts, dresses, coats, and more can be donated. Clothes for women and children are particularly wanted, in all sizes, although medium is the most common. Additionally, kitchen items like pots, pans, utensils, and cooking supplies are welcomed, while feminine hygiene products like tampons and sanitary towels are needed too.
To donate clothes, Proyecto Florcer can organize private pick-ups for free. Please contact +57 323 3378 296 for more information.
Collect & offer food
Families ringing doorbells across Colombia and asking for food has become a regular occurrence in the past few months. The sad reality is, without work and fewer people on the streets, vulnerable groups are unable to find the money to feed themselves. Without breaching quarantine rules, it’s easy to assume that you can’t do anything unless people come to you. This, however, is not true. Proyecto Florecer is organizing a community kitchen in various locations around Medellín with the help of volunteers and food donations.
Working alongside AAA (Arte, Amor, Alimentación), the kitchens aim to ensure food security for people in nearby housing. Donations of any foods are gratefully received, although long-life products like tinned goods, beans, nuts, rice, pasta, oats, and flour are best.
To arrange a free private food-up pickup from Proyecto Florecer, please contact +57 323 3378 296.
Make a donation
No matter how much you can give, donating money makes a huge difference. Whether to an individual on your doorstep or an official organization, your financial support can contribute to your community in ways you perhaps aren’t aware of. Donations can be used to buy food and masks, offer healthcare, provide education, and pay rent, as well as uphold initiatives that are pushing for positive systemic change for equality in Colombia.
Through Proyecto Florecer, a $150,000 COP ($40 USD) goes towards monthly food and hygiene products for a family. Or, a $15,000 COP ($4 USD) donation goes towards providing a hot lunch for 10 people in the community kitchen. Payments can be sent using PayPal, QR code, and credit/debit cards.
Other very worthy causes include:
Colombia Cuida a Colombia
Are we missing a way to contribute to your community from home? Let us know in the comments.