Soren Kierkegaard said “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”
As we reflect on this year, we recognize that for multiple reasons it is a year for the history books. When Footprints with Hope began the year of 2020, we were just in the baby phase of being open. We had grandiose ideas and desires for what we wanted to accomplish in the displaced communities of Colombia. No one predicted the onset of COVID-19 as an event we would face. An event which would affect the entire world, in turn changing the abilities of what we could accomplish. However, sometimes our plans are not always the best laid plans. Through times of hardship and change we learn and grow.
Travels in 2020
The board members of Footprints with Hope traveled to Colombia in the first week of March, just before the virus reached the United States and changed the ability to travel freely. Together we visited Cartagena, Santa Rita, Palmito, Brisas del Mar, Alto de Julio and Bucaramanga.
During this trip, I had my first experience driving in-country. To give you a brief idea of driving in Colombia, the motos make their own rules on the roads, weaving and out, which makes driving for someone from the States quite the experience! The team traveled via public transportation to experience the way of life for the Colombians. Andy and Isaac spent half of the 3 hour bus ride next to a man who had brought live chickens with him in a pillowcase. We took a flight to Bucaramanga. There we shared time with women who had fled their homes in Venezuela to find a better way for their families in Colombia. Although Colombia faces dire situations, the Venezuelans do, too, and find refuge in the borders of Colombia.
Board member, Andy Lee, and his son, Isaac, taught the kids in Santa Rita how to play U.S. football. The children there taught our team how to play their version of “futbol” (soccer, to those of us here in the States). When we traveled to Alto de Julio, the women wanted to learn to play American football. So Andy and Issac taught them the rules. The kids of Alto de Julio played on a team with Andy. The women played on a team with Issac. They enjoyed the game on the beach until it was nearly sunset.
Due to COVID, unfortunately many teams could not travel to Colombia as planned. In lieu of not being able to travel, teams remained planning while the board worked on projects behind the scenes. We continued to lay groundwork for the Luchadora project, clean water initiative in Palmito and finishing construction in Brisas del Mar for the future teams. I was able to make it back to Colombia in December with COVID precautionary measures. I spent time working with the village council in Palmito on the clean water project. We also visited a new village called Bajo Grande. It is another Zenú Indigenous community. While we were there, the desire grew to be able to help their community as well.
While the year may have looked different to us than we had planned, we were able to achieve several wonderful accomplishments. Through the annual Blessings for Brisas 5K, we raised $1,300 for the clinic of Brisas del Mar. The 5K was very different, being virtual, but the outcome nonetheless was encouraging to the community.
Our annual project of Christmas in Colombia also looked very different. We set our goals high, with the desire to help many communities this year. However, we are thankful that we helped 3 communities through the project. Footprints with Hope does collect funding all year for this project, not just in the Christmas season, if you wish to give to it at any time here.
The most exciting project we are happy to share with you that we reached this year is in the community of Palmito. Restoration Park Church in Medway, Ohio, raised over $25,000 to put in a clean water system for Palmito and for the village of Bajo Grande. The foundation also launched selling the beautiful products the women in Palmito make by hand from a product they grow
As we wrap up this year and look toward the new year, we know it won’t be without challenges. However, we have really big goals we hope to see come to fruition. We are excited to watch a clean water system get installed into Palmito and even the neighboring village. Our team looks forward to building a small warehouse for their community. With a warehouse, the women will have a place to work unhindered and store the bags once complete, allowing them to produce more and make a better income.
We have big plans to launch the Luchadora program. Funding has been coming in little by little for it, and we cannot wait to welcome 30 women into the program and walk with them through a time of personal healing, financial learning, and economic growth for their way of life. Be on the lookout for news about that program in 2021 or join with us by donating to the program Luchadoras.
The goal is for teams to be able to travel to Colombia again. There are plans for 2 teams as of right now, and we are watchful of the COVID-19 situation as we begin hopeful planning. There will be the annual 5K at the end of October for Blessings for Brisas, our annual clinic fundraiser.
And there always will be the new twists and turns we don’t expect to take, but will welcome with a smile as we continue to carry hope to Colombia one step at a time.
As the quote says, Life can only be understood by looking backwards, but living forwards. We are excited to have learned from this year but even more energized by living forward looking into 2021.