While searching for a place to stay in Cali, Colombia, I contacted Alejandra to see if I could couchsurf with her for a few nights. By the time she replied, someone else already agreed to host me.
When I told her this, she said it was too bad but nevertheless invited me to join her on Saturday for the work she does at her foundation. I was in!
The story goes that Alejandra was volunteering for an organization that provided lunches on Saturdays for the underprivileged kids living in Altos de Menga. They also played with the kids and generally served as role models for them.
But, sadly, the founder died and no one was there to continue the mission.
Alejandra took it upon herself to revive the organization and mold it in her own way. She has been working with the kids there for over five years now and is an informal aunt to the kids.
I thought it would be a similar experience to what Marcos is doing at Angeles de Medellin, but the situations are quite different.
We showed up and as usual I had no idea what was going on. There were a team of volunteers – all university students – ready and eager to have fun with the kids.
The kids took an instant interest in me because I was new and because I “talked funny.” One little boy instantly identified me as being from Argentina and I went along with it. I’m not sure why as my accent screams gringo and the Argentine accent is quite distinguishable. Still, I was thinking too much. Maybe the only foreigners this boy has ever met were from Argentina.
Anyway, being a soccer fan he started asking me about Messi, Argentina’s’ best player. Very quickly I had to fold my cards and reveal that I’m not Argentinian. 🙂
When we got there, we bought some supplies, collected everything, and headed to a huge open field a few minutes walk from the village. The store we bought things from had a beautiful bird there. I think it’s a parakeet but I’m not sure.
In the end, the main outlet for fun would be a slip-and-slide created from putting down a tarp and covering it with soapy water. Below are some pictures and video of the kids and volunteers alike having fun.
In conjunction with the slip-n-slide fun, we had a contest for the kids to walk on the slippery surface with an egg on a spoon. Naturally, after a few minutes this turned into everyone throwing eggs at each other, but it was fun to see the kids concentrating so hard on protecting their egg!
It was fun being outside, but the bugs were absolutely horrible. We were getting eaten alive. You can see a leg here belonging to a volunteer. She was getting eaten worse than me, but my arms were already full of unhealed bites from my day on the coffee farm in Manizales. Similarly, a picture of kids searching for tadpoles in the mud. Not unsurprisingly, they found a ton and took them home in an empty bottle!
The kids kept on inviting me to see the “heart rock.” So I gave in and followed them into the woods a bit. In the end, I can’t argue with them. The rock looks like a heart! Very cool 🙂
After the outdoor fun, we went inside to talk, hang out, eat, drink something, and relax a bit. It was nice and we were all exhausted from the heat and the kids. Below is a picture of all the volunteers.
But the picture below really sums up what Alejandra is doing. She’s “just” a college student, but she’s pouring her love into this community of disadvantaged youths. They love her, she loves them, and it shows. As I said in the post about Kenji in Bogota, if you want to change the world, change your local community. Alejandra is doing exactly that, and it never gets old meeting such inspirational and motivated people!