Sunday, March 14, 2010

Tumaco and Illegal Aliens

Adriana Guiand, on the right, is the Colombian director for the International Relief and Development (IRD) a large US-based organization that has a major humanitarian project which the Church is supporting in Tumaco, a very poor city in south western Colombia near the Ecuadoran border. In Colombia, internally displaced persons (called Desplazados here) -- people driven off their property and out of their homes -- is a big problem. About 10% of the population of Colombia is desplazado. The photo shows a view of the Pacific ocean from a restaurant where we ate lunch. Adriana is talking with one of her Tumaco staff. The shrimp we had was the best we had ever eaten.

Our first stop was at a fish processing plant. The women in the picture above are all desplazados that IRD placed in the plant. They peel shrimp 6 days a week; eight hours a day.

The shrimp is processed; quick frozen and the above picture shows the finished product before it is packaged.

The plant also receives other catches of fish. In this photo, is a boat of fresh fish and the men are about to walk up the slippery steps with their catch.

Our next stop was to see where some of these desplazados live. They have to build these houses above the ground as water comes up every evening at high tide.

Two children that reside in the village. IRD weighs and measures these children when they arrive in Tumaco. As you can see these children are very malnourished.

A woman that lives in the village is explaining to us about the water she gets from the well. They use the water to drink but I am uncertain how clean it is. IRD provides water purification tablets with a grant from the US state department.

The second day of our trip we went to a food distribution held in front of the IRD offices. The photo shows the people that are there for their second months food. IRD provides food for them during the two months it takes the government to process their papers. The food consists of rice beans and cooking oil donated by the Church. It is at the first distribution that these people are given hygiene kits, newborn kits and school kits also donated by the church.
I love this photograph. The children who have come with their mothers to get the donated food are playing with toys that have been donated by the church. Each child gets to take one home.

This photo shows the bags that have been prepared for distribution. Each woman gets enough in her bag for her own family for a month so the size and amounts vary.

IRD tries to make this a happy occasion and always invites a group to perform for the desplazados. These kids are all from displaced families that a foundation supports that teaches music to children of displaced persons in their school. They asked us if we knew President Obama among many other questions. Carolyn always enjoys interacting with the kids.

At the airport as we were leaving Tumaco, it was brought to our attention that we were in the country illegally. Our visas had expired. Not good. This situation was resolved last week as Royal and Carolyn along with another senior couple and two elders flew to Pasto, Colombia, a town two hours from the border. For the next three days, we stood in long lines in Colombia and Ecuador but when we left we were legal again. The photo is of us and Hermana Morgan crossing the border from Colombia to Ecuador.

The elders crossing the border.

A common sight everywhere you go in Colombia is people selling things along the road. This young boy was running down the road selling fruit as we travelled back to Pasto. He is the youngest person I have seen doing this selling.

We passed several of these buses on our trip from the border. Inside the bus is filled with people who crossed the border from Ecuador into Colombia. On top of the bus is all their belongings. I am not sure what the job of the two men were. Perhaps to make sure the stuff didn't fall out.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Vision and Clean Water Projects

This is a photo of Royal visiting with the first lady of the department (state) of the Valle del Cauca (in green blouse) after our meeting to discuss humanitarian projects with her.

After our meeting in Cali we went to lunch where I ordered barbecued chicken. Here in Colombia, they serve your chicken with plastic gloves so you do not need to bother with a knife and a fork.

Dr. Christiansen (we are related through the Merrill line), Patriarch Barbosa of the Cali Stake and Royal at lunch.

Out of order!! This photo was taken at a restaurant in Bucaramanga that the notario took all of us to for dinner on Royals birthday. The young lady sitting in front of the entertainers works in the notarios office and helped us with the NRT when we were there a few months ago. This photo is taken in Bucaramanga in the office of Governor Uribe of the department of Santander. He is standing to the right of Royal. Next to him is Presidente Ardila, the Christiansens and to my left is Presidente Barreno and Henry Mendoza the public affairs person that helped arrange our visits. In the background is the ever present portrait of the Great Liberator, Simon Bolivar.

A photo with the mayor of Bucaramanga at his home. He is standing next to me.

We were greeted on our arrival to Bucaramanga by the two stake presidents on Royals right and Henry Mendoza on my left.
This photo is taken in Barranquilla at a vision clinic. Our friend and driver Cristian Juliao is standing between the very handsome doctor and Royal. The other doctor is head of the clinic and he is standing next to Dr. Christiansen.

Moving right along to Cartagena, you see Royal and me ready to take off on our unforgettable boat ride to Baru.

The boat with the blue trim was our means of travel to Baru.

A house along the inlet to Baru.
A typical street in Baru. Notice the water buckets.
This is the well where the folks come each day to get their water. The water is clean but salty. It's not for drinking but is used to cook, wash clothes and bathe. For drinking they have to wait for a small pond to fill up with rain water or buy clean water that business men transport by boat from Cartagena and sell to the Baru residents.
While Royal walked through the town of Baru to look at the now-empty pond where rain water is collected, I found a shady place to rest. Before long, I had a group of curious children surrounding me laughing at my spanish and examining my camera. The little boy standing in front of me was the most talkative and inquisitive of the group.

As we walked through the streets, we saw this young man either repairing or finishing this chair.
I have seen several iguanas in our travels but this was the closest I came to one. I didn't ask if they bite!!!

We ended our trip with a lovely horse and carriage ride through the old section of Cartagena. The old town was lively and beautiful and the ride was very relaxing. Our friend Cristian is sitting in front of us.