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Palmito Projects
by Rachael Ferguson
August 15, 2021

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The Zenú Community

As we discussed in previous blogs, Footprints with Hope has had the opportunity to go into the communities surrounding the village of Palmito. Palmito is located in the department of Sucre, Colombia. There, the traditions of the Zenú remain strong inside the reserves there where they live. We are fortunate to work with the communities of Pueblecito and Bajo Grande, where we’ve provided clean water systems for their communities. Now nearly 500 homes have this in their every day, thanks to donors like you. The heritage of the Zenú is beautiful and they welcomed us with open arms.

The work of the team

We spent the week in Pueblecito doing a variety of projects. In Bajo Grande and in Pueblecito the team delivered bags full of school supplies. The children were so eager and excited to have crayons and a notebook . They patiently waited in line to receive their bag. Thanks to all who donated supplies for these kids!

In Pueblecito, we did a program for the children. The following day, we did a program for the women. We had the humble opportunity to wash their feet and show them love. Another humbling activity we were a part of was the medical brigade. The members of the community of Bajo Grande and surrounding communities were invited to come see the doctor to receive medical attention. This was the first time that any medical brigade had taken place for these communities.

The medical brigade

During the medical brigade, the team took height and weight of the kids. We also passed out toothbrushes and toothpaste and assisted in organizing the medications. The nurse, Miguel, oversaw the passing out of the medication based on the diagnosis. Jay, a last minute addition to our team, was able to attend to patients utilizing his medical skills. We were all humbled to play a small role in this and to understand on a new level the lack of medical attention such a community has available. Many waited patiently for hours to see the doctor and receive basic medication like ibuprofen or heartburn medicine.

The construction

Most of the team was new to being in the Colombian culture. With that came the experience of doing construction the Colombian way: by hand. The project was to build a small house-like structure, but one room size. The building will accomodate the women in their making of the bags from caña flecha, the vueltiaos- a traditional Colombian hat, and rugs, wallets and cosmetic bags. The women have been functioning in a very small space. Therefore, this new building will allow them room to do more and store their items safely.

The construction began from scratch. We arrived to chalk lines demonstrating where we needed to begin our digging. The big joke on the team was “How many feet are in a meter?” The Colombians use that metric system and we all seemed to have a different answer! Thank goodness for the Colombian construction expert. We dug with shovels, threw dirt by hand, mixed cement in ways unimaginable to people in the States, and sawed boards by hand. The team worked hard with little breeze and nearly 100 degrees, yet no one complained. We were so excited to be a small part of helping this community.

We were unable to finish the project while there. However, the work continues on in Pueblecito and walls have now been erected. The progress is exciting.

Lessons learned

It is nearly impossible to be in the midst of the Colombians and not walk away with life lessons learned. As one who has been visiting there now for 5 years, I still leave with imprints on my soul and a changed heart, which drives the mission of our work. Putting into words what this particular experience was with my team is a challenge to explain to others. I think one of the most impactful moments was visiting Bajo Grande, to which it takes a motorcycle and a half mile walk to reach.

I was first introduced to this community in December of 2020, and the love I have for them runs so deep. When I first met them, they seemed a little skeptical of me. It was as if they were thinking: “Who is this strange woman coming from so far to be here?” However, it only took moments for their hearts and arms to open up to me as I began to speak with them in Spanish.

All of those communities have hard ways of life, yet they endure and persevere and press forward. I began to dream and to pray that we could do something in that community with the water situation. (At that time, we’d only planned for the Pueblecito village). Long story short, Restoration Park Church raised enough money to provide not just for the Palmito community of Pueblecito, but also for Bajo Grande and a third village! The funds they raised blew me away!

So, to return there in March and see the process beginning was exciting. This trip, though, I had the opportunity to have my team with me. And this trip, we saw the fruits of that project as a reality. When leaving the village that day, one of the leaders pulled me aside. As he wept, we embraced, and he shared how the clean water will change their community forever. They were so grateful to all the donors who made this dream a reality for them.

Another lady, 27 years old, with her son at her side, grinning ear to ear, shared how the future of her child changed forever for the better, and this gives her the opportunity to keep dreaming for him.

Humbling… there is no other way to say it. The fact is, I didn’t even know this community or these people existed just 6 months ago, and now our paths are forever intertwined. That is amazing. I can’t wait to see what continues to happen as we work with Bajo Grande.

Adelante… forward

As we wrapped up the week in Palmito, the community loved on us, hugged us, spread gifts on us and cried as we said goodbye. But, it isn’t goodbye. It is simply “until next time.” The projects will continue, helping the community go forward with sustainable ways and we, as a team, will go forward in life with the lessons the Zenú taught us in that week. I am humbled, excited, and emotional to be a small part of this and to work with the board of Footprints with Hope to keep helping the Colombians go forward in life with a hopeful future, one step at a time.

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