Friday, August 17, 2012

Discovering Colombia - Part 6

We go to a town meeting in the community school. We pass indoor outdoor classrooms in small squat brick buildings filled and surrounded by children of every age. Murals painted on walls convey messages of companionship.
The week before I came to Cali, a survey found Colombia to be the 2nd most happy country in the world. Now I am sitting in a room full of people chatting as the Ombudsman and a community leader dialogue in tones denoting passion to these listeners, tones that would denote anger to people in my city.
They are talking about public transportation -  tram project that would serve the poor people living a atop the hills. This is a new administration. The Ombudsman, Andres Santa Maria, responds that he will visit the site.
A young man in gold chains asks the city for a multifunctional sports part, He cites the constitution and right to happiness. He explains how youth have no where to go, and so turn to violence. The Ombusdman makes plans on the spot to meet with community leaders and make plans for this. Then we will visit the community health center, and is planning to investigate the healthcare system in the city.
A third man lists the problems that come from unemployment. He wants to see an educational sports program. The Ombudsman respond he will do what he can.
Next comes complains about big box stores displacing small local businesses. The start of a plan to investigate the community an create a plan to protect community assets is formed.
A woman talks about family, culture and the communal society. So short, she is buried behind the pulpit, she recites the needs of her community and the stresses that pull apart families. She calls for jobs, housing and support for mothers.
People living on the hills do not have title to their land, and so cannot sell or give it. A man in a sky blue tee asks the mayors office to issue title. A woman in a tangerine shirt asks for stop signs so people can cross the street safely. It costs too much money to pay for electricity, and there are blackouts, another woman asks the city to reduce energy costs. A woman asks for health care reform- old people are not able to get medical help. The Ombudsman announces he has just been made president of all Ombudsmen in Colombia, and he is looking at the issue of health care. Applause explodes.
It is hot. I am getting sleepy from the heat and the sheer weight of the issues- on overload. I step outside where children are throwing a stick into a huge dinosaur sized mango tree. I watch as they pass underneath munching on green mangos.  Their stick is stuck in the tree. 
Later Andreas, the Ombudsman, Nate who coordinates TED Talks in Qatar, his gorgeous girl friend who works in youth media, Camilo, the consultant to the city and I go to dinner.  I ask the Ombudsman about the day. Yes, he says, these are the same problems in most of the neighborhoods of this huge city.  He is conducting two meetings per month.
I am filled with admiration. So many problems - so many opportunities. It feels at once impossible, and at the same time as if there is a possibility for a real turning point. Andreas has a coolness and intelligence that gives me confidence in him and his city.
Posted by Laura Musikanski, ED of HI

No comments:

Post a Comment