After almost three years of global pandemic travel restrictions, I was lucky to be the first Misean Cara staff member to visit project teams again. In July, I left my desk behind to fully immerse myself in the fascinating projects some of our members are implementing in Peru and Colombia. Across both countries, it was inspiring to see how the project teams adapted to the additional challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In Peru, schools remained closed for two years, preventing students from having access to quality education. Misean Cara-funded projects found creative solutions to tackling both the immediate educational needs and the secondary consequences of the lockdown, such as emotional well-being and family support.
In many disadvantaged neighbourhoods of Colombia, children face additional challenges: gang violence, drug trafficking and organised crime. To support students in their education, while also ensuring they have a safe space after school, different projects provide after-school and weekend activities that allow children to be just that – happy children.
But it was not only children that faced increased challenges during the pandemic. With many people in Peru and Colombia engaging in informal labour, families often lost most or all of their income during lockdowns and curfews. Women and young adults are the most vulnerable to these economic shocks. On my visit, I learned about some of the creative ways project teams found to support women and youth in income-generating activities.
My visit to these projects was hugely inspiring and I returned to Dublin with a suitcase full of new ideas and touching personal stories from project participants. At the end of my trip, I also had the privilege to meet representatives of all Misean Cara-funded projects in Colombia during a Members’ Meeting in Cali. The highlight of the meeting was the participation of the Irish Ambassador to Colombia, Her Excellency Fiona Nic Dhonnacha.