When Alan Wagenberg invited me to contribute some photos to an upcoming online exhibition called Shooting Colombia, I watched this video on his website which introduced me to The Colombian Connection Project. It was fascinating to hear some of the participants talk about their experience, so I asked Alan to write a guest post for us on how the project has evolved.
Written by Alan Wagenberg, Founder of The Colombian Connection Project
I have been taking foreigners from different nationalities to Colombia for the last three years. Most of them where strangers and did not know each other. And most of them assumed the country was unsafe.
The idea of our trips is to take opinion leaders to my home country in order to show them that their perceptions about Colombia are far distant from reality. In order to accomplish this, we take them to different regions in Colombia and give them the chance to meet with different charities, politicians, academics and businessmen. Our aim is to empower them to become goodwill ambassadors to Colombia.
Don’t get me wrong; of course Colombia faces many serious problems such as human rights violations, inequality, and injustice but sometimes foreigners can’t go beyond this picture and see that behind all of this, Colombia is comprised of a majority of well-intentioned, hardworking individuals.
Consider, for example, a rare article published in Business 2.0 magazine about an ecovillage in Colombia called Gaviotas located in one of the globe’s least hospitable climates: “Built from scratch in a treeless corner of the country, this community of scientists, tinkerers, and refugees – now numbering more than 200 – has created a verdant rainforest where once there was nothing but scrub grass. It has also devised and deployed dozens of inventions with a frequency and success rate that puts some of America’s most storied technology companies to shame.”
Seldom do Colombians and, to a greater extent, foreigners learn about these inspiring stories: the stories that provide hope and allow us to glimpse into Colombia’s future, rather than its past.
Throughout the trips, I have always been fascinated to see how each participant would experience and perceive Colombia based on their own cultural ties. For example, the Brits, being proud of their history, were somewhat disappointed to see that in Cartagena, Sir Francis Drake was not celebrated as a hero but rather remembered as a pirate.
On the other hand, the participant from United Arab Emirates was surprised to find that our family focus and hospitability was similar to hers.
We also had a participant from the northeast of the United States who needed a lot of convincing to come on this trip due to security concerns. At the end of the journey he had this to say: “As far as safety goes, a person can get into trouble anywhere in the world. I found it ironic that after all the concern I received from my family and friends, after spending two weeks in Colombia, the least safe I felt was at a gas station near the airport back here in the U.S.”
About The Colombian Connection Project
The Colombian Connection Project (TCCP) was started as an independent initiative seeking to make a positive contribution in Colombia. As part of its mission, TCCP designs learning journeys for foreigners that are interested in experiencing first-hand a different side of Colombia. Each journey is organized around a particular theme such as sustainability, culture, urban planning and biodiversity.
For additional information please visit: http://thecolombianconnectionproject.com