Community program

Ipauratu, Colombia

Lend a vital hand in a remote indigenous community in Colombia, living on a local finca (farm) and teaching disadvantaged kids. Based in the tiny village of Paluato, home to just 480 people of the Mocora tribe, this project aims to improve living circumstances for its residents, who have very limited access to educational resources. Over 200 of the 480 villagers are children, so the project is constantly swamped and always eager to take on enthusiastic volunteers with big hearts and kind natures. Right now, 90% of the Mocora people live below the poverty line, so you’ll be helping to get these spirited, wonderful people on the road to a brighter future. It’s a chance to make a real difference in a place where it’s really needed.

There are all kinds of ways to get involved with the project, from caring for kids with special needs to spending time with the older generation and helping them feel part of their community. You can organize sports and recreation facilities, empower the local people through education and broaden horizons. Right now, most of residents of Paluato struggle to secure a stable income, mostly cultivating the land or taking on construction projects. Families often go for days without electricity or gas because they can’t afford the monthly bill. Volunteering here, you’ll be helping the locals pave the way to a better life, through education and understanding. At the same time, you’ll live within a very special community, where everyone knows your name and every second of your time is appreciated.

 

Why join this project?

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Make a real difference to in a remote, disadvantaged community.

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Learn about life in a remote and warm-hearted Colombian village.

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Stay on the property of the project itself, learn Spanish and feel part of the family in no time.

Want to help build brighter future for a remote community?

This project, based in a tiny mountain village 100km from Cartagena, aims to make a real difference to a small, indigenous community living below the poverty line. Living on a working finca (farm), you’ll get involved in all kinds of activities to help broaden the horizons and enrich the lives of the local people from the Indian Mocoro tribe. The village – Paluato – is home to 480 inhabitants and a whopping 200 of these are kids. Right now, the focus of the project is education, as Paluato has just one school and its limited resources mean that it can only teach children up until 9 years old. After that, they have to set off all the way to Galapa, the nearest town, to go to school.

During this project, you can lend a hand teaching the friendly kids, help children with special needs feel comfortable amongst their peers, promote team-building on the football field and work with the elderly to give them a sense of meaning and belonging. It’s an all-encompassing project that brightens lives and builds hopes for the future. Volunteering here, you’ll quickly become part of a tight-knit, welcoming village that really needs and appreciates every minute of your time. It’s intense, inspiring and totally unforgettable.

Fancy learning some Spanish to give you a good start in country? Why not study Spanish while you are here, the project offers Spanish classes along side the volunteering.

Project duration:

Min 2 weeks – Max 3 months.

Location of project:

Paluato village, 100km of Cartagena and 18.5km south of Baranquilla

Arrival airport:

Cartagena International Airport (CTG) (4 hours away) or Barranquilla  (45 min away) or Santa Marta (2 hours away). Our transfer is included from Baranquilla.

Activities:

  • Assisting the local teachers with pre-school classes for toddlers between 2yrs and 4yrs old, helping them with speech, counting, manners and hygiene.
  • Helping the football coach to train children that can’t afford a membership to an official school, building both football skills and values such as co-operation, team work and sportsmanship.
  • Lending a hand with a local youth group that welcomes kids from neighbouring villages and teaches English, leadership values and cultural differences.
  • Volunteering at a local home for the elderly, helping the residents to feel appreciated by practicing English with them, making handicrafts and – most of all – providing them with some kind, patient company.
  • Helping kids with special needs at to feel a sense of real belonging. As these kids cannot attend the normal local school, the project established a special needs school of its own and you can get involved by playing, teaching, and giving structure to the lessons.
  • Rolling up your sleeves and helping to keep the finca running by painting, scrubbing, building and maintaining the vegetable garden.

Working hours:

You’ll work for 5 days a week for between 4 and 6 hours per day. The weekends are generally free for you to explore Colombia, although extra activities are sometimes arranged for the children and your help is always very welcome!

Getting to the project:

You’ll arrive in Baranquilla, less than 20km from Paluato village. From here, we’ll arrange a transfer  for you (included in the price of the project), so you’ll be welcomed at the airport and driven directly to the project.

The different volunteer activities take place around the project house and also within the village. Your placement will never far from your home – just a short walk or a short ‘moto taxi’ ride away. Transport between the different programs is included in the price of your stay.

Requirements:

  • Minimum age 20.
  • Screening meeting via Skype with the volunteer organization
  • Travel/Medical insurance
  • Police clearance certificate/Criminal background check. Volunteers will also need to sign a child protection policy document upon arrival.
  • Basic Spanish as a minimum. In case your Spanish is basic, we also recommend taking Spanish classes at the project.
  • Fluent in English.

What’s included

  • Volunteer donation fee for the project
  • Accommodation:  The finca can accommodate up to 10 volunteers at one time, in dormitory-style or double rooms with shared bathrooms.
  • Breakfast, lunch and dinner – two hot meals and one cold meal per day. Volunteers help prepare the meals and help clean up.
  • Airport pickup from Baranquilla. Your arrival time needs to be between 7 am and 6 pm, as it is not recommendable to travel at night. In case you arrive at night, we can help you book a hotel or hostel in Baranquilla.
  • All transport from the finca itself to local project initiatives is included and arranged by the foundation.
  • Training: In-country orientation, Pre-departure helpdesk, local in-country team and 24 hour emergency support

What’s not included

  • Flights,
  • Medical insurance
  • Spanish Classes
  • Return journey to Barranquilla (this can be arranged by the project at an approximate cost of COP45,000 or $21 USD)
  • Accommodation during week ends if you leave the project

Every day will be different during your volunteering stint with the project and you’ll need to adapt to any changes that might crop up. However, here’s a rough idea of what you can expect during your first week with the community in Paluato.

Arrival day: Arrive into Barranquilla airport

Today, you’ll be met at the airport and transferred directly to the foundation in Paluato, your home for the duration of your stay. Once you’ve cooled off and settled in a little, the owner will show you around and tell about the foundation, as well as all of the social programs underway in the village. You’ll have plenty of time to ask questions and get familiar with the owners as well as the other volunteers. The rest of the day will be free for you to rest and recover from your journey or get to know your surroundings. Dinner is around 7pm and after a game or chat with other volunteers, you’ll probably find that you’re ready for a early night before your early start tomorrow.

If you can’t arrange a flight that gets you into Barranquilla on the specified arrival date, try flying in a day early. We can pick you up at the airport anywhere between 7 am and 7 pm or arrange a hotel stay in Barranquilla for you. Just let us know in advance and we’ll help get everything organized.

Monday: First day at work

After an early breakfast (between 7 and 7.30 am), you’ll begin your first day at work. Your exact schedule will depend on your own personal program (which we try to base on your preferences), but you’ll be working in one of these three areas:

1) You’ll assist the teacher at the school for kids with special needs at the foundation, working from 8am to 2pm and having lunch together with the kids.

2) You’ll walk to nearby Guaimaral, where you’ll assist the kindergarten teacher. You’ll work from 8 till 11.30 and then walk back to the foundation for lunch at 12am. In the afternoon, you’ll help one of your fellow volunteers in the English classes for the youth.

3) In the morning, you’ll help prepare the English class for the youngsters that will arrive at the foundation in the afternoon. You’ll grab lunch at 12pm before teaching English from 2-4 pm, assisted by another volunteer.

If you’ve still got plenty of energy at the end of the day, you can help the local football coach in the evening and share your experiences with the other volunteers after dinner.

If you choose to take Spanish classes during your stay, these will be scheduled around your working hours.

Tuesday to Friday:

The rest of the week will run similar to Monday. We always try to mix up the schedule, giving you a chance to participate in all of the different programs run by the project. During the first week, we’ll ask you which programs you’re enjoying the most and take this into account for the following weeks. On Wednesdays, the afternoon youth class is all about building professional skills, while Friday afternoon are reserved for sports and games.

If you enjoy teaching English, you can also lend a hand teaching classes for the employees of the project itself. Alternatively, you can roll up your sleeves and get creative, painting and working in the garden. We’ll do everything we can to give you the best volunteering experience possible, so be sure to let us know your likes and needs!

Saturday and Sunday:

It’s the weekend! Unless there is a special activity going, these days are all yours to rest, recover and explore! As the foundation is tucked away in a rural area, there isn’t much a great deal to do at night or on the weekend. That’s why we always recommend that you take a weekend trip away from the village. Head to Cartagena to explore the cobbled streets and salsa the night away, party on the beach at Santa Marta or Taganga or trek through tropical Tayrona National Park. The owners of the project will help you to arrange your trip.

You can leave Friday afternoon or Saturday morning, but you’ll need to be back in Paluato on Sunday before dark. If you opt to stay at the foundation for the weekend, you can take a day trip to the beach, a nearby nature park or a museum in Barranquilla. Sunday is an official day off for employees and the owners, so you’ll need to prepare your own food (all provided to you by the owner).

 

RoomYou’ll stay in a volunteer house at the project itself and you’ll feel like part of the family in no time! You’ll sleep in shared rooms or dorm-style bunk bed accommodation with shared bathrooms. You’ll receive to 3 meals a day – 2 warm and varying meals including fresh fruit juice and one cold meal. Everybody eats together and the Dutch owner is passionate about home-cooked, so you’re in for a treat. Tea, coffee and water will be available all day. There’s a fully kitted out kitchen, laundry facilities and a lovely terrace to kick back during your time off. It’s a project where everyone pitches in, so you’ll lend a hand preparing meals, clean your own rooms and wash your own dishes. In total, there is room for around 10 volunteers at any one time, so you’ll be living in a close-knit group with like-minded people.

Important reminder: If you have any allergies or other dietary needs, you’ll need to inform the owners in advance so that they can prepare for your stay.

This project runs all year round, so there’s no excuse for missing out! Volunteers arrive on Saturdays and leave on Saturday, after staying for a minimum of two weeks.

February: carnival is celebrated in the region, volunteer spaces fill up fast during this time of year, so book ahead!  During the months July and August, school are closed for holiday and activities may change.

My experience at Ipauratu

Ipauratu is the perfect example of how a few people can make a difference, little by little, for an entire community. What do I love about this place?

I love the opportunities offered to the people of Paluato village. Whether it be offering a fun and friendly place to learn, have fun and explore their creativity or whether it be a project that helps the community as a whole (for example obtaining running water and gas for the houses within village.

I love the openness to new ideas and the eagerness to continue to grow in ways that will make is possible to offer more opportunities for the people of this community.

I love the selflessness of Inten, Jeovanny, Roberto, Sylvia and the rest of the members of the foundation; putting all that they have into helping improve the lives of others.

I love that here you can experience what it is like to whole heartedly give back to a community while witnessing the laughter and joy in the childrens faces.

I love being a part of something thats sole purpose is to help others.

For me this experience was priceless and even though we extended our stay here, I would have loved to stay longer. My husband and I hope to return sometime in the future and to bring our children (when we have them).

If you are someone that wants to experience what giving back to a community feels like, then this is the place for you. Jeovanny, Inten, Sylvia and Roberto are the most warm and hospitable people and we felt at home right from the moment we arrived. We ate lovely fresh food and practiced our Spanish while conversing about all sorts of interesting topics. We enjoyed our adventures when taken on walks around the area by the very friendly children. On top of all of that it is very relaxing being here with the beautiful views and cool afternoon breeze, so we also enjoyed our time relaxing and listening to the sounds of the animals, wind and children playing.

Ashari and Guy from Australia

El tiempo que yo podía quedarme en la fundación fue una experiencia inolvidable, muy importante y interesante para mi. La fundación es una casa única con mucho cariño y lleno de felicidad y discusiónes interesantes. Trabajando con los niños en este lugar en las semanas antes de carnaval y navidad me pusé en situaciones especiales y a caso difíciles. Aprendí mucho de la cultura colombiana de los costeños, a través de los niños, de la fundación y otra gente que me acompañaron durante este tiempo.

Con muy poco la fundación está capaz de cambiar mucho en la vida de los niños y las familias de Paulato. Durante mi estancia trabaje con diferentes grupos de niños, en la escuela dando clases de inglés, jugando, dibujando y contando historias a los niños de la primer infancia de Paulato, invitándoles a la fundación para proyectos creativos, dándoles a un grupo pequeño la oportunidad de dibujar y pintar y también visitar al barrio “el Carmen” en Galapa y darles unas horas divertidas haciendo una cosa nueva a los niños de allá.

Estos proyectos creativos fueron por ejemplo, haciendo manillas o collares de su gusto con materiales que la fundación les ofrecía a ellos. Los resultados fueron muy distintos y llenos de imaginación. Siempre estuve muy impresionada de la improvisación y de los ideas que tienen ellos. Con poco ya están capaz de hacer un pequeño pedacito de arte.

Realisé nuevamente que comunicando y viviendo con los habitantes de un pueblo de un país sí grande como Colombia me ayudo comprender mejor a la cultura y probar el ‘sabor’ de la vida costeño.

Muchas gracias!

Magdalena de Suisse.

 

They say “All good things come in small packages”.

Change the good to Great and that pretty much sums up this Fundacion. Paluato is fortunate to have a small foundation with a BIG Heart!!  Inten and Jeovanny run the foundation with so much love and heart, it was an honour to be a part of, even for a short time.

What the foundation is doing for the local community is golden. To see the smiles on the childrens faces, whether they are learning English, playing football, making paper mache fish or making Halloween masks…would melt a grown man’s heart. The foundation is always thinking of and open to new ideas. Anything to help the local community…. ‘’The door is always open’’.

I am not sure what I was expecting before I arrived but my first impression was what a wonderful set up they have and a beautiful setting. Inten and Jovanny welcomed me with open arms to “ my house’’. Being thousands of miles from home their welcome was very reassuring and comforting. I can not thank Inten and Jeovanny enough for making me so welcome.

I can only wish them and the foundation the very best for the future! They are doing wonderful things and I have learned so much. I will never forget my time here and the amazing people I’ve met.

Hasta la proxima vez!!!

Sarah ,Ireland

 

Paluato sits in the tropical Caribbean region of Colombia, so temperatures are almost always high and humid. This means that you can visit the project on a year-round basis. In general, the driest months are January, February, March and November, with blue skies and sizzling heat. You’ll see the most rain during May, July, August, September and December, although there are plenty of bouts of bright sunshine between the cooling showers. Broadly speaking, the warmest month is August and the coolest month in November, so you can choose to travel at a time that suits your own weather preferences.

How important is it to speak spanish?

Not all the time the people in charge of the project who speak English are in the project. For this reason basic Spanish is recommended. Depending on your level of Spanish you will be able to really help the project. In case your Spanish is basic, we recommend you to take Spanish classes at the project

Are there any shops close by?

No, the project is located in a rural area, so there’s no shops close by.

How big is the village of Ipauratu (how many people live here)?

The village inhabits approximately 480 people, of which 200 are children (about 148 families).

How do volunteers get to the big city?

The people of the project will help you to coordinate transport services in case you want to visit close villages or any attractions in the surroundings. The closest village is Galapa (it has bank service) at 10 Km.

Is it wise to bring cash money?

Yes, you will need cash for any extra services. the closest bank is in Galapa

Are there buses running during the night to get to the project?

No, volunteers need to be back before 19.00 Hs.

This project is on the lookout for…

Independent, pro-active volunteers over 19 years old who want to get involved with a tiny, remote community. The project is very small-scale, with a maximum of 10 volunteers lending a hand at any one time, so you’ll need to be ready for a tight-knit experience. You’ll need a firm grasp of Spanish, although additional classes can be arranged during your stay at the project.

They say “All good things come in small packages”.

Change the good to Great and that pretty much sums up this Fundacion. Paluato is fortunate to have a small foundation with a BIG Heart!!  Inten and Jeovanny run the foundation with so much love and heart, it was an honour to be a part of, even for a short time.

Sarah, Ireland

About

Palualto

Paluato is a really special and eye-opening place that will introduce you to a totally different way of life. Tucked away in lush mountains, 100km north of Cartagena and 120km from Santa Marta on the Caribbean Coast, it’s surrounded by rich green countryside just begging to be explored. With a cool breeze and warm sunshine, it’s perfect for hiking and biking.

The village itself is tiny, tight-knit and open-hearted. Home to just 280 adults and 200 children, Paluato is worlds away from the bright lights of Cartagena and Medellin. The people of Paluato belong to the Indian Mocana tribe and the vast majority of the villagers live way below the poverty line. Most of the residents make a little bit of money with agriculture, or work as house-help for richer neighbours, but this still doesn’t give them enough to get by. You’ll need to be prepared for this and understand that you’re heading into a isolated area where life can be really tough.

Ideas for

days off

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Hop on the bus to Cartagena, a fairytale maze of cobbled streets, brightly painted colonial houses and shady plazas. Salsa the night away, relax on Playa Blanca or wander through the ancient walled city.

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Hit the beaches around Santa Marta or Taganga to party on the sand and soak up some weekend sun.

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For a relaxed weekend, you can explore the hills, forests and villages surrounding Paluato on foot or by bike. It’s a great way to get to know your neighborhood.

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If you’ve got a whole weekend to play with, make a beeline for Tayrona National Park, around 5 hours from Cartagena. Trek between gorgeous wild beaches and forests, sleep al fresco in swinging hammocks and feel a million miles from the city lights.

Drop us a line!