As each day passes the team get more settled into Colombian life and continue to throw more energy and enthusiasm to ensure they are getting the most out of this cultural experience. We are so impressed with the way they are all conducting themselves and could not wish for better ambassadors of Medway Youth Trust.
We celebrated Halloween with the local school children in Tena which was a huge amount of fun. We used face paint to give ourselves a “Day of the Dead” style look and took part in the school’s presentation and activities including the egg and spoon and sack races! Over the weekend we completed another uphill trek to visit a sustainable farm where we learnt about the process of creating bio fuel, we were amazed at what a powerful source of renewable energy it is and that the final product is not as smelly as you would expect! We also visited another local town, La Mesa, and discussed the differences and similarities between Colombian and British communities for our NOCN qualification that each member of the New Horizons team is working towards. They key points raised in the discussion were; how tightly knit the Colombian communities we have visited are, the strong role family plays in Colombian communities and how Colombian communities are brought together by having to find innovative and collaborative solutions to the issues they face, i.e. a lack of essential resources such as water and transport.
All the sub-groups switched around to ensure every team member took part in all the social action projects. Taz learnt how to be a master cheese maker and supported the dairy plant to cope with an increase in orders over a national holiday. Jacob, despite a hurt ankle, worked with the Colombian bakers to make a variety of sweet treats to be sold in the cafe - and then did all the washing up!
Shannon R, Shannon W, Bradley and Bill worked with the local school children to help them learn english through presentations, 121 conversations and traditional games. One afternoon they were joined by the rest of the New Horizons group to give a big presentation on British Culture which they had all prepared and research in England - topics included British food, Sport and a fantastic history of British TV from James. The group had to speak very clearly and concisely as the teacher asked that the presentation wasn’t translated into Spanish to ensure the colombian pupils learnt the maximum English! It wasn’t an easy task but the group did a very stirling job, even singing the British National Anthem in tune!
A particular hit of New Horizons’ time in the school was teaching the pupils cricket, which before Colby and Joe’s masterclass the children had never heard of before. They were so enthused after this that an entire school class played the game with the New Horizons group including their teacher! They were delighted when we left the cricket set we had brought from England as a thank you gift for the school - made even more special by the fact it was signed by all the New Horizons team!
The final week was particularly challenging on the coffee farm due to Tena being hit by torrential rain. Luckily, the New Horizons team were on hand to help the farmers! Ruby, Joe, Colby and Jordan dug a drainage channel at the bottom of the steep hill going up to the farm to ensure the ground didn’t get completely waterlogged. They also constructed a large tarpaulin cover to protect the roof terrace of the farm and prevent leaking. Most impressively they joined together with other members of the New Horizons team to design and construct a brand new bridge over a stream between the farmhouse and central Tena to replace one that had been damaged by an angry bull. The bridge is particularly important as it is the only way a local member of the community, who is disabled ,can cross the stream and access the town. The team firstly had to clear the bridge that had been destroyed and then work out the most effective and robust way to use the limited bridge building materials they had - bamboo and wire. Through excellent team work and communication they completed the task in 2 days and were able to leave a fantastic physical legacy of New Horizons which will serve the local Tena community for many years.
We were incredibly sad to leave the farm in Tena having spent a wonderful 3 weeks living there. The New Horizons’ participants described it as their home and our hosts Monica, Carlos and Alyssa as family. They shared that they felt very lucky to have been given this unique and eye opening experience. Our departure from the farm was an adventure in itself as the heavy rain meant no vehicles could reach it - Joe and Jacob did a brilliant job trekking up a steep path to carry all the luggage to the nearest road where it could be collected. After this we were then taken to a coffee plant where we learnt the final stages of the coffee manufacturing process. We took the beans the New Horizons team had collected, split, washed and dried and then put these into a machine where they were sorted, then toasted, then ground and finally packaged and very excitingly the group were then given the opportunity to purchase the coffee they had picked and made themselves!!
The final stop for the New Horizons team before we returned to England was Bogota, the capital city of Colombia. As well as enjoying hot showers (our first in 3 weeks), we had a very yummy celebratory team meal with the ICYE staff, did lots of site seeing and took the cable cart to Monserrate (3000m above sea level) to see the incredible views of Bogota. The perfect way to finish our trip.
There aren’t enough words to say what an amazing 3 weeks the team had in Colombia and how much the young people achieved by participating in New Horizons. All the participants were taken out of their comfort zones, pushed themselves, overcame a variety of hurdles, learnt a multitude of new skills to thrive working and living in a completely new country and culture. New Horizons will certainly stay with them all for the rest of their lives. A huge thank you to everyone who has supported New Horizons and made this life-changing initiative possible.