Kids, Computers, Colombia, Volunteering In Medellin

November 25, 2013 | By | 15 Replies More
Medellin, Colombia

Poblado, Medellin

After cycling through Costa Rica and Panama, what’s next? I moved to Medellin, Colombia!

I didn’t end up sailing like I had planned because I got sick. Plans change. I was okay with not seeing the San Blas Islands on this trip. I took the easy and expensive way by flying over the Darien Gap.

After visiting Colombia a few years ago, I knew I always wanted to come back. The people are so friendly and parts of the culture are similar to my Filipino heritage in terms of social interactions. Plus, I want to become fluent in Spanish and Colombia is one of the best countries to learn in because the accent is clean.

Prior to arriving, I didn’t do much research on where to stay. I thought that I’d just ask questions to figure things out. It’s less work and this has worked out quiet well for me in the past.

Luckily, when I dined at Hooters in Panama City (Don’t judge. I go for the hotwings. It’s nice to have American food after being on the road for so long.) I met a waitress who happened to be from Medellin. She recommended to check out Poblado. I later learned that this is the most affluent neighborhood where a lot of expats live. Expensive, but safer. This was a good place to set up base camp while I learn about the city and search for a room to rent.

Event at Museo de Arte Moderno de Medellín

Innovation event at Museo de Arte Moderno de Medellín

Why Medellin?

Several things drew me to this city such as the cultural transformation that is happening now. It was voted as one of the most innovative cities by The Urban Land Institute. It has a growing tech and startup scene. The weather is spring time all year round with occasional rain. I can deal with this. The urban vibe in some areas feels like my hometown of Chicago with a good metro and bus system. Lots of activities in the city to do. The women are beautiful, it’s not a secret. I won’t be sharing juicy details about my dating life here. Bummer. I know. Although, that would make this blog funnier.

The main reason that drew me to spend time here was a volunteer opportunity.

Isla Digital on Lake Ometepe, Nicaragua

This billboard on Lake Ometepe, Nicaragua shaped the course of this trip.

The opportunity

While traveling through Nicaragua six months ago, I was on Ometepe Island and spotted this billboard (pictured above). I learned about an organization was giving laptops to kids in poverty to empower them through education. I did a little poking around the web and came across One Laptop Per Child. I went to their website and saw that they had projects in Colombia, so I e-mailed the country manager. She then put me in touch with the Marina Orth Foundation which is who I am exploring this volunteer gig with.

Volunteering in Medellin

Volunteering in Medellin

My first week here I met with the director of the foundation to learn more about the program. I also went to the school to observe a few 5th grade classes. While it’s the end of the semester now, it gave me an idea of what I’d do the following year. I can choose to work with teachers on IT topics, teach English, and help a scholarship group of high school students with their English so they can study abroad. I was also asked if I could help out with online marketing and social media to improve the foundation’s web presence.

This is quite a lot to take on, but I like that I can create a volunteer program based on my interests, skills, and experience. I also like that I don’t have to pay a volunteer fee. I just gift my time.

Luck, chance, serendipity. Being present to spot that billboard on this journey lead me to this next phase. I stumbled across this opportunity on a whim. It’s aligned with my personal mission and what I’m passionate about with technology, learning, and helping people.

Just like my bicycle tour, I figured everything out along the way. I’ll do the same with teaching.

What advice do you have for a first time teacher?

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Comments (15)

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  1. Mala Grewal says:

    Mig – today is Thanksgiving and your email is a perfect one to find in my inbox. I love that the course of your journey was inspired by a billboard and that you followed your gut to learn more about it. It always seems when you’re going with the flow that things begin to align with personal values and mission. That’s when you know you’re on the right track. Go bless lives, I’m thankful for your journey and for sharing it with all of us. :)

    • Mig says:

      Thank you! I’ve been looking for a word to describe the things happening on this journey. You bring up a great point, it’s about “flow.”

      • Sal says:

        Working with the kids up in the communes up the mountain is a great experience. I did a volunteer gig with Angeles de Medellín with Marco the Program Director for the Christmas food and toy distribution they do every year. They also take donations. believe me, these people that live in these areas are really in need, they are desplazados from the natural disasters and the violence here in Colombia . They live in housing they were able to tack together from trees and tarps. The people are really wonderful in spite of it all…

  2. Andrew says:

    Sounds like a great volunteering opportunity – I look forward to hearing more about it. My advice as a teacher to another first-time teacher: be patient, don’t take things too seriously and have fun – if you’re having fun the kids will too!
    Andrew recently posted…Does Travel Ruin your Future Prospects?My Profile

  3. Danny Dover says:

    Sounds like an amazing opportunity! I appreciate the write-up, you have me rethinking Medellin. :-)

  4. Ayngelina says:

    Sounds like an amazing opportunity, good luck! Can’t wait to hear more about it!
    Ayngelina recently posted…I’m Afraid of SpainMy Profile

  5. Jean says:

    I don’t have an advice but i just wanted to say what you are doing is admirable! hitting 2 birds /goals in one stone/trip. giving back and enjoying!
    Jean recently posted…Luxury Hotel in Paris: Hotel Fouquet’s BarriereMy Profile

    • Mig says:

      Gracias! Volunteering has been great to really learn about a culture. As much as I share, I’ve learn just as much if not more from the people I serve.

  6. Maria Falvey says:

    Wonderful that everything fell into place for you on this trip… maybe I should go to Hooter’s and chat with the staff *laugh*

    Looking forward to future posts to see how your work on IT topics, English language, and your own Spanish lessons go.
    Maria Falvey recently posted…Wordless Wednesday – Traveling with SweeneyMy Profile

    • Mig says:

      It’s amazing how things just happen to work out. The luck chance encounter with the beautiful waitress from Medellin in Panama City was funny. Really, I love their hotwings. ;)

      I do plan to share more about this volunteer experience. Thank you for following along.

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