Our final day in Colombia

Ms. Martinez: We spent the last day having so much fun together, with the quiet thought of goodbyes still far off in the wind. Students exchanged gifts and sang songs, and played games, and did a final “rap de la bendicion” to say grace over their last meal together. Every moment was deeply treasured, especially because halfway through the day after lunch, Mike and Sister Carolina each took a turn sharing the good news of a potential CASFA to Cristo Rey trip in the summer of 2018! Some of the students who were more familiar with crying did so with no shame and completely understandably.

The CASFA students and adults worked so hard to host us and they pulled it off without a hitch. Every activity they led and event we participated in revealed something new about Colombian culture to our American students and without complaining once, out students jumped at the opportunity to witness and engage in it.


Slipping and sliding is one way to say goodbye, right?

Some of the best ways to envision our last day are to see it through our pictures instead of hearing me yap on and on. These students found true friends who treated them as equals who bonded through their common traits and their differences just the same. A national, continental, and even hemispheric divide will never break up those differences, especially considering that every single Cristo Rey student returned being influenced to adopt, or donate money, or volunteer their time to causes that they never realized were so immense until they were working face-to-face with people who live and thrive through adversity every day.


The CASFA students created a photo presentation of our week together.


Flying over Minnesota at last!


Day 7: Bella and Jackie

Ms. Martinez: During our time here, Soacha has been referred to as one of the poorest slums of Bogota. A one-and-a-half hour bus ride, then a two-and-a-half-hour trek through the simultaneously lively yet forgotten municipality revealed its resilient personality and intense poverty. Just two days ago, we broke break and gave thanks, but the opportunity appeared again after a steep climb up several hills. By the end of the day, we were thankful for the pain in our legs, because we have legs. We were grateful to feel the sunburn on the backs of our necks, because we have the strength, good health, and physical ability to do service work for others. Besides the pictures from today, check out the wonderful blog created by Jose P. and Jose G.! It took longer than expected to upload but it is worth it! Follow the link to check out our Day 5 adventures!




Trekking through Soacha


Bella: So this whole trip has been Cristo Rey students with CASFA parters, but I am not a Cristo Rey Student.  I am Bella Sampsell and I go to Breck School in Golden Valley.  I have been blessed to join Cristo Rey in this trip and I have bonded closely with everyone.  I was born in Bogotá, Colombia and was adopted when I was a baby.  I was sick the past 2 days and sadly couldn’t participate in building the house or painting the mural.  I wanted to go to Soacha today, but I was feeling sick in the morning.


After some needed rest and water I felt up for going to FANA, the orphanage where I came from, to help out with the children.  My dad and I went to FANA and worked with the 9 month olds – 2 year olds with two other people that worked there.  It was a group of 16 babies that all had different stories.  One baby was from Venezuela and was only at FANA for a month. Another baby, named Dulce, that was about a year and a half old that came to FANA a month ago as well.  Another baby was about a year old and came to FANA when he was just 3 days old.  It was really special for me because I was one of those babies 16 years ago.  When I was playing with the babies I realized they just wanted human interaction and love.  I think we take that for granted in life because we have a family who loves us.  These babies don’t have that,  they are in a room full of 15 other babies with 2 workers.  One of the babies wouldn’t let me put her down,  when I finally had to, she started to cry and put her arms out for me to pick her up again.  After we fed them, it was time to put them to bed. This little 1-year-old baby, named Daniel, wouldn’t stop crying when we put him to bed.  My dad picked him up and he immediately stopped crying and fell asleep in his arms.  This was very touching for me and my dad because my 12 year old brother, Daniel, and I were both adopted from FANA and my dad holding a little boy named Daniel just brought back the memories from his adoption.  There was another little boy named Harold and he has the same birthday as me and I thought that was amazing. Once all of them were in bed sleeping we had to leave, so we called an Uber and left.

Our Uber driver had a very interesting story.  Whenever my dad takes an Uber he always asks “How many hours do you have to work per day to be able to provide for your family?”  and so he asked him.  He answered, but not without the story of his life.  He has lived in Soacha for his entire life, except for the 21 years he was fighting against the FARQ and the Paramilitary all over Colombia.  He said that seeing all of Colombia was beautiful but fighting against the FARQ and the paramilitary was very dangerous and he is very lucky that he survived.  He now has a wife and 2 children, 15 years and 26 years old.  They still live in Soacha and he works 18 hours a day to be able to provide for his family.  His wife doesn’t have to work, because the government gives him a pension for the work that he did fighting in the military.  He was very grateful for the life that God has given him and looks on the bright side.  After the ride, my dad and I wondered how much that 45 minute ride was,  it was $3.80.

In general, today has been pretty great.  I learned to be grateful for what I have and the significance of giving back to the people that need it. Seeing the smiles of the kids when I just looked at them was uplifting.  I am so thankful for the family FANA has given me and I want those kids to get the same opportunities I am given in life, because they deserve it.  That Uber driver showed me another story and perspective of the drug war that is happening all throughout Colombia.


Jackie: I’ve never been so sad about a day being Saturday. With less than two days left with our CASFA partners, (well, even more than partners, they’re our family) saying goodbye will be extremely difficult. This morning I started breakfast with a prayer and I gave thanks for everything we’ve experienced and have. After breakfast, we all hopped onto the bus and had a singing competition which helped with the long bus ride.

When we finally got to Soacha we were greeted by Michael, he works with a foundation called “Codo a Codo” (“Elbow to Elbow”). He took time to show us part of Soacha and shared the stories of the place. Everything was exhausting not just physically but emotionally draining as well. If you think you’ve experienced or have a clue about poverty, you’re most likely to be wrong. The most basic necessity a human being needs is water. The people who live there need to pay high amounts of money to get about 50 gallons of water, and they need make that last 2 weeks. Michael told us many hard stories, one of them was how a company bought one of their biggest water sources, they drained the area to make an industrial complex. The site created there ended up flooding five floors during a particularly rainy season, so now it’s a huge plot of useless land instead of a watering hole for the community.


Soacha views: makeshift homes and beautiful mountains and cliffs


The cows grazing throughout Soacha

Whenever Soacha is able to obtain resources it doesn’t go all the way up the mountains, it stays at the bottom unlike drugs which always makes its way up. They do have animals like cows, but any milk they obtain from them is unsanitary because where the cows live is filled with water of all kinds of feces. Here, dogs are like squirrels, very abundant and always present even if they’re unnoticed. Few have faithful owners, almost all of them get kicked out once they stop being a puppy.

After going uphill for about two hours we were welcomed for dinner and had one of the most fantastic entertainment sets. Little kids from the same organization played the drum set and knew how to work an electric guitar. Marlon sang for us and his voice filled me with pure joy, his voice was so powerful and full, he also sang an original for us which was very powerful called “Mascaras,” or “Masks.”

After lunch we were divided into groups where we headed to paint houses. My heart shattered when I entered the home. It was in very bad conditions that when we started to paint the walls the plaster came off. We were working with a hard color: beige. We had to go through many layers off paint because we wanted to make it as pleasant as we could for the couple that lived there. As we painted, the husband just sat in the bed looking around with a smile because the mold and stains were slowly being covered. Back home I never had the chance to paint my own room, but here I was able to paint a house that was almost as big as my room. I put in all my energy into painting, not because it was part of our activity or mission but because at the time it was the least I could do, it wasn’t just paint it was love, compassion, vulnerability, and passion.

Today we were able bring joy to few people who needed it more than anyone. Mr. Dale was able to remind us that we can leave that place, but the people are still there in that condition. Today I’m even more grateful for the things I have like sense of security, medical attention, education, a home and now more specifically water. If it wasn’t for my parents who were able to escape poverty, my life would be totally different and I would probably be in the same situation. As I leave this trip my life will be totally different and will try to always be prepared for life and always serve others.

Day 6: Slay, Alejandro! (Amy and Jenni R)

“The goal isn’t to live forever, the goal is to create something that will.” -Chuck Palahniuk

MrDale bday

Happy birthday, Mr. Dale!!!

Ms. Martinez: Legacy was the word of the day today. Some of the legacies that we leave behind are physical, such as the house we built for Edilberto and Oscar, or the mural we painted today. They will linger in the spaces we traversed and will remain for a stretch of time, but forever in our minds and hearts. Some of the other legacies we carry with us or leave behind are purely emotional and based on the love and support among us. It may seem like a simple phrase but these students have grown into a family that supports each other and laughs with (or at) each other. Alejandro was clearly the superstar of the day, with every action of his warranting a loud and positive cheer of “SLAY, Alejandro, SLAY!” The other lasting legacy that we hope is left behind is a raucous celebration for Mr. Dale’s [insert number here to not hurt his feelings] birthday. Cake and “Happy Birthday” songs reverberated throughout the day! As we reflected tonight, we spoke aloud our wishes for the legacies that remain after we leave this wonderful country, but also the legacies that linger once we have passed on. Among our wishes, we hoped that we are remembered as people who helped others, who made good, wise, responsible choices, and who were loving to all those around us. Enjoy the thoughts of Amy and Jenni!

Amy: “Abre Tus Alas A Grandes Acciones” Open your wings to big actions. That was the whole message of the amazing mural we painted today. Waking up at 5:30 a.m was really hard but it was all worth it at the end. Stay tuned about how 24 students painted a mural in about four hours. We started by meeting up at CASFA in the morning and greeting our partners as we do everyday, then walking to the place where our mural would be born. Seeing where the mural would take place was surprising. It was such a busy place for 24 people to paint one mural. When I first saw the design of the mural, I didn’t think we were going to be able to pull it off.


A picture of me working on my wolf

Once we started working, it was like the seven dwarfs from Snow White (except we were 24) working really hard to finish the mural. I was really scared to get paint in my hair. I don’t need more then two colors in my hair. While we were painting, putting the finishing touches on the mural we all sang together, and laughed about our inside jokes. Painting the mural was a life changing experience for me. Who would’ve known that a group of students could make such an impacting mural? A mural that will stay on that wall forever, anyone who walks past it will remember us. Our partners will remember us on their way to school everyday. That’s impactful.

Finishing that mural was so tiring, but again so worth it. Worth all the black, gray, and white on my fingers (which took so long to take the paint off)  It turned out so beautiful. I have no words to describe how beautiful it looks. After we finished the mural, we all felt very accomplished and took an amazing picture. Then we went back to CAFSA and we ate a delicious lunch. Of course we had to celebrate Mr.Dale’s birthday and after that we played activities with the CASFA students, who have become more then friends, they’ve become family.


Team work is everything. This is my second family.

Jenni:  Today, we made a mural with the CASFA kids. The mural included the flag of the U.S. and Colombia. While painting, I felt connected to my inner self. I remembered the time Sister Carolina told us of the significance of the mural of the indigenous women and of the baby eating corn. The indigenous women in the mural represented our (hispanic) indigenous roots. The baby and the corn was a representation of how one eats cultural food from a young age.



The painting itself represents the love for art in the culture of hispanics. While painting, I really felt that connection. I’ve always wanted to write graffiti on walls and to do it in Colombia is an absolute dream come true. Back in the U.S. you don’t really get praised for murals or significant graffiti. Here, you are recognized for the art you do. As we were painting, people walked by, talking of the man that was leading us in painting. They’d smile and say with a proud smile “He’s especially recognized for the art he has all over here.” I felt inspired by him to embrace the art and spread it to others. The way he led a group of more than 20 people in drawing and painting a whole mural was amazing.



Truly, I think art is a part of us that we all embraced today. I’ll never forget laughing, singing and painting with the CASFA and Cristo Rey kids. After we finished, I sat at the top of the mural and enjoyed the view. Friends came to join me and we all just laughed and listened to music. Heidi came to me with her speaker telling me that my cousin, Kevin Roldan’s (famous artist in Colombia) song was playing. I started laughing. Today was full of true joy. I was struck when I saw the ending result and felt surprised and proud at the same time.

Through this mural, we left our footprints here in Colombia. I saw people looking back at it as they walked up the stairs and passed by the mural. I hope that our partners will see it and remember the memories spent during this trip and especially while making the mural. Though I got white paint on my hair and seemed as if I got gray hairs, I’d consider this one of the most memorable moments in my life.


Day 5: Building Shelter While Our Wings Grow Stronger (Jose Galvan & Jose Palmas)


Mr. Contreraz:  Imagine, if you will, spending your Thanksgiving in the Andes Mountains building a house with some of the most amazing individuals you have ever had the pleasure to meet.  This is how we spent our turkey-eating day in Colombia.  We worked with Techo para Colombia, an amazing  Colombian organization which is similar to American Habitat for Humanity. Our students have been selling Hot Cheetos and Gatorades after-school for months, raising funds for this project.  For many in our group, today’s house building was the apex of our trip to Bogota.  Our day began with an early wake up time and breakfast paired with a long bus ride into the mountains surrounding Bogota.  They were bleary-eyed, yet cheerful, as we traveled down the long dirt roads.  Finally we got to a stopping point as our buses could go no further up the mountain road.  We unloaded and hiked up another ten minutes to find a concrete slab and cement squares piled next to the roofing supplies. We had a beautiful prayer as we were wowed by the view from the building site.  The majestic Andes truly were breathtaking both literally (the altitude is almost 2 miles above sea-level) and figuratively as we gawked at God’s creations.  We then broke into our groups and worked our tails off, building the house in under 6 hours!  The cement blocks fit together like a 3-D Jenga game, and before we knew it, we were raising the roof and painting the walls!  It was an amazing day where we both witnessed God’s creations around us in the landscape as well as participated in His creation by building this house for a family in need.  We capped off the day with an amazing Thanksgiving Feast where we all gave thanks to God and each other for another remarkable day in the “City of Eternal Spring.”


Jose Galvan: My heart bursts with love and gratitude as Edilberto and Oscar welcomed their dream to reality. We knew this day was urgent to us and CASFA, waking up around 5:30, a quick shower, and breakfast, then going on an hour-and-a-half bus ride to complete Edilberto’s dream of having a house. We were separated into four groups: construction, painting, cooking, and planting. I was in construction. I have helped with building garages, however this house was not how I imagined it would be built. Constructing the house reminded me of a puzzle very much with the various sizes and shapes we would have to stack. A couple of hours later, we finished the house.  Now what was left was making it pretty. Blue and white was what Heriberto visualized his house to look like, and we fulfilled his wish. After adding the final touches, we saw our masterpiece. Edilberto and Oscar expressed the gratitude that they had when we helped make his dream come true. We were filled with emotion knowing that we all played a part of turning a dream to reality. One of the best ways to celebrate this life achievement was to gather later for a Thanksgiving dinner. We started off with emotional turns of expressing thanks followed by tears and hugs. We gathered, feasted, and celebrated as a family.

IMG_5370  Only five days after arriving to my first outside-of-the-country trip, this family has given me one of the best moments of my life.




Edilberto  (Left) and Oscar (Right) in front of their first home

Jose Palmas: My experience is also one of kind and I’m very blessed to have this opportunity to help those in need and build a roof over a family’s head so that they have somewhere to sleep and eat. We woke up very early at 5am and took a shower to start off the day with some amazing arepas, hot chocolate, and coffee. As many may know, I am not a fan of coffee and it’s battery-tasting flavor but I’m always excited to try new things 🙂 The day was clearly remarkable and full of impact for all of us. Getting to be part of someone’s home for over 5 hours for them to live their entire life is both fascinating and eye-opening. It’s truly an honor to be part of someone’s life and having an impact for the rest of their days. We drove back into Bogota with tears and pride knowing that we made a change in the world and in society. We then went home to clean off our smelly, sweaty clothes and put on our Thanksgiving outfits and feasted on some delicious turkey and salad, then  danced the night away to some traditional salsa, cumbia, and bachata. Sleeping feels a million times better when you know you did something productive in your life.

Video Link: https://youtu.be/N-vrvDi8YLQ





Day 4: UNTITLED (Evelyn and Jenni S)

“Only a peaceful heart can overcome a tired body and a heavy mind.” -Vishal Singh

Ms. Martinez: Today was the longest and most active, yet one of the most blessed days yet! Due to my non-stop yawns, and the incredibly thoughtful reflections from the evening’s featured bloggers below, my piece will be short. School lunch today filled us in ways that no buffet and certainly no United States school lunch will ever be able to (TBH, as the kids say), but more spiritually filling were the experiences we had with the elderly folks at the dispensary, and with the nature and history of Colombia around us. Although all that we’ve gone through in the last few days has weighed upon our bodies and minds, our hearts feel at peace for the service that we have done and will continue to accomplish during the rest of the week. Without further ado: Jenni and Evelyn!


The most amazing school lunch I’ve ever seen!! (And trust me, I’ve seen my share.)


Evelyn: Hold on tight, this might get bumpy. The day started later than usual, which was a blessing from God. Literally. After waking up, the group and I received a major wake up call: walking to PACHAS, to the dispensary. Although the walk through the busy streets almost, and I mean almost, got us killed, we arrived on time (yay!). Once the elderly arrived to the dispensary, happiness completely engulfed my emotions. They were bombarded with many activities, which included manicures, playing board games, and creating leis. Painting nails has never been this much fun. Stories after stories were told, in which I realized that despite the incredible age gap, many patterns continue throughout time. Despite time passing by at such a quick pace, humor and utter happiness is always present. The most heartbreaking moment was saying goodbye to them. Although we had spent a short time together, those memories will always be embedded in my heart.


The Bell Tower on Monserrate

After our time in the dispensary, we had lunch at PACHAS. The food was absolutely amazing! The most funny and greatest moment was giving our CASFA partners a little taste of our own culture through Tajin. Although many of our CASFA partners gave the most absolutely horrifying faces ever, they still gave the effort to try some of our culture.


The physical representation of me: on fire


Monserrate came next: the greatest experience I have ever lived! Taking the Funicular, the cable car, all the way to the top of the mountain was quite the adrenaline rush. Upon arriving, my breath was taken away. Not because of the high altitude (which affected Mr. Dale), but rather, because of the astonishing view. The entire city of Bogota can be seen at Monserrate. The skyscapers, the barrios scattered throughout the city, and the looming mountains can easily been seen. No matter how hard you try to find a picture of this on Google, nothing will ever beat the authentic view. In the short span of approximately an hour, I truly felt the presence of God. The radiant sunshine and the quick pace of the clouds reminded me of the absolute peace that God has provided me with in these last few days. I felt that I truly belonged on the pinnacle of Monserrate in that precise moment.

Thank God for history. As I walked throughout the well recognized Museo de Oro in Bogota, I felt that God has provided us with immense creativity and curiosity. Multiple upon multiple artistic artifacts illuminated in the light. Despite becoming such a complex and sophisticated society, our history will always be engraved in us. Our history is a part of us.


The view of Bogota from the top of Monserrate 

Jenni: Today was full of indescribable feelings and blessings. After breakfast, my group and I walked to a dispensary, it was a significant moment working with ruca/os- old people, but in a sweet way. We made bracelets and necklaces with them, while they unleashed their adventures and dangerous stories.

Some of the other Cristo Rey students told us that the rucas/os were roasting each other. Jackie Cruz told us that a ruco she was working with roasted other women. What he said was “These flowers that we are putting together for our necklaces look as young and beautiful as you young girls, but then they get wrinkled and ugly like these rucas!” It was so funny! Additionally, my group and CASFA group joined together to preform a dance for the rucos/as. It was such a beautiful moment seeing their puzzled and priceless faces.

Once everything was finished, we said our goodbyes, and gave hugs and kisses which was touching. There was a ruca that gave me a blessing. She started crying while making a cross in front of my face, I do not know how to explain this emotion, never have I felt this before.

I did not expect to be infused with such strong emotions. Seeing Monserrate was amazing and so was the Gold Museum. I took numerous pictures, but none beats the view in person. When seeing the view at Monserrate I had an indescribable feeling that I took a moment to think about what is my purpose in life? Now I know serving others. Everyday my school says this but I never pay attention, but now I know what it means: making others happy, having an unforgettable moment and always, always making them feel love. Today, it was a unforgettable moment, the tears dry, the smiles vanish but the memories last for an eternity.


Before sunburn 



IMG_3113 2

After sunburn 😦

PS: Wear sunscreen, kids.

Day 3: Riding the Roller Coaster of Emotions (Hillary and Diana)

“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” -Neale Donald Walsch

Ms. Martinez: FANA, or the Foundation for the Assistance of Abandoned Children, was a touchstone of our day. Our hearts swelled with love and compassion for the children we met and worked with today. They, like us, craved human affection, conversation, and laughter and we were overjoyed to give it to them. At the end of the night, it should come as no surprise that I cried as we discussed what we experienced, since I’m the kind of person who literally cries when I see a cute puppy or a beautiful sunset. The feelings attached to today, whether at FANA or watching our students and the CASFA students interact, conjured up so many ideas about how to pay it forward. With inspiration from Grace, who joined us and contributed to SO much of this trip (INFINITE THANKS!!), our students mentioned the amazing ways that they plan to change the world. Grace shared her career and life paths intertwining through various different sectors, but mainly education, healthcare, and international travel and volunteerism. Jen S. plans to become a missionary doctor and open clinics to support those in need. Jose P. plans to start a neighborhood organization to support kids in after-school programs to help them succeed. So many of us said that we plan to research how adoption and foster programs work in the United States, and as we plan our families, consider those as options. Beyond the education or outreach that this blog has, our students plan to continue life habits and career choices with Jesus’ work in mind.

Hillary: Today was full of deep and mixed emotions, as well as fun. Thankfully we were blessed with waking up later than usual. The day started with a visit to FANA, a private child protection center. It was a strong experience that brought both joy and sadness. As much as we enjoyed our time with 3-4 year olds at the orphanage, we had more to do later that day. We went back to CASFA, our Colombian Partners’ school. We had lunch there and there was an afternoon full of dance parties and playing new games. The day ended with a reflection after dinner about our day and experiences.

At FANA, we were given a quick tour of the place which included seeing the different programs they offer. This included us being able to see young babies which was an adorable moment for many. We then got to separate into different groups working with the younger children. It was super fun and amazing experience. These kids were full of curiosity and intelligence. While working on a coloring project, a boy showed me the crayon he was using and said, “Este es Amarillo y se dice yellow.” It is surprising to see what these kids have to share. Another memorable moment was when a girl said Alejandro’s name was “Conejo,” I could not stop laughing. After FANA, we went back to CASFA. During lunch, we were singing songs such as “Despacito” and “Adios Amor.”

After cleaning up, we taught our Colombian partners’ El Caballo Dorado and it was an entertaining show. It then transitioned to them teaching us a about a craft. After the craft, we split up in groups to play traditional games in Colombia such as soccer and jump rope with a twist. It was constant fun the whole time and the last activity we did was more dancing. We wore traditional outfits and danced to songs such as the Macarena. Music proved to be a key to connecting the Cristo Rey students with the CASFA  students. It helps create the family bond and unity between us. We create a memorable experience that lets us enjoy the new culture and company of new people.


Together with our partners at FANA, a beautiful life experience to share with each other.

Diana: From waking up early and taking a cold shower to having the best day ever filled with so much happiness, sadness and excitement is how I would sum up the day. However, I need to go into detail. The experiences from today are unforgettable and I can’t believe that I was able to do all of it just today. Going to a child protection organization, FANA, with our CAFSA partners was an experience that I will remember everyday. It was my first time visiting a place like this, I cannot put in words how lovely it was to be able to spend time with the little kids. Walking in those hallways, taking a glance of the rooms in which they go to and making funny faces in the other side of the window as they saw all of us walking by was my experience before being able to met the little adorable children.

Gathering as a group with little adorable kids was so exciting. The sun was so bright and we played games outside such as duck duck goose and broken bridge. I sat next to a little girl who had cute little rosy cheeks, Sarita. She was shy and I could tell she might want to sit aside from playing all the games with us. As time went by, I would motivate her to participate in the games and she did, while grabbing my hand. I could see that she started to develop a sense of trust with everyone after playing some games outside which made me so happy.

While back in the classroom with the little kids, we made some bracelets using fruit loops. After all the activities and breaking the piñata, it was sadly time to say goodbye. I couldn’t walk out without giving everyone a high five and a hug. Then I got to Sarita, and it was one of the hardest goodbyes I have ever given. Her friends who were sitting next to her said to me “I love you” and it made it even harder to leave. This day made me realize that we are all born with things to be grateful for and it doesn’t matter, the minimal things count. They really do. We all have different experiences that we grow up with but that is what makes us all unique because we learn from them even if they’re bad. The best thing that I learned from today’s experience is that even the simplest or most minimal-seeming actions can help anyone in need, so offer as much as you can without expecting the favor or kindness returned.


Tonight’s bloggers (+ Gissell) 🙂

Today’s bloggers were Hillary, Diana, and Ms. Mtz!

Day 2 in Colombia: Alejandro and Gissell

“Helping one person might not change the whole world, but it might change the world for one person.” -Anonymous


Ms. Martinez: Today’s quote was chosen because the highlights of the day revolved around our work with children at Colegio Anexo San Francisco de Asis (CASFA). Our first night of reflection, we asked ourselves, “Why are we here? Why did God place us in this place, together, now?” Echoed among all of us was the idea of helping others to help our own selves grow. At the school we served today,  we got to be more than observers and instead got to lead and create fun memories with the young students. During tonight’s evening reflection, just about everyone chose their elementary class activity as their top highlight for the day. Energy was the key word, but joy and love were the key feelings. In the end, our names or the specific games we played might be forgotten by the students we met, but hopefully they will carry the optimism and love we shared and pay it forward to others throughout their lives.



A view from the top of El Codito, the barrio we toured today!

Gissell: We woke up earlier than the first day. We were blessed with the breakfast they gave us. Then we got ready to go on the bus and see the school our partners attend. On the way there we got to see many different sites that were eye opening. We were welcomed by our partners with a wonderful song. The wonderful little children from three to five years old, performed different dances for us. We were able to taste a bit of their Colombian cultures. Colombian like the United States is not just one culture, not just one voice or music. After that there were presentations of students from different grade levels. We got to know some terms used in Colombia, like “Guacala” (a phrase used to express disgust) or “quibo” (a way to greet friends informally). The Cristo Rey students were going to led some activities with different classrooms. It was very fun for all of us being with the children and playing games. Later we had a delicious dinner with the CASFA leaders along with activities that made us bond even more. We ended up going to “Los barrios”. One of them known as “El Codito”, along with many more.



The streets of Bogota

When we were walking to go visit the different communities in the city, we passed by a place that was closed down and moved to a different location. This place was where the military stayed and lived. The main reason why they moved was because many would not like that the military was so close to the homes and a story that the military impacted the community badly. This story was about three young boys who were playing outside. As they were playing they found a sphere shaped object that they thought was a ball. On the other hand, it ended up being a grenade which cost their lives. Near that location lies a religious sculpture that is in remembrance of these little boys.



We woke up early in the morning, got ready, had breakfast and on to the bus we went! We arrived to Colegio San Francisco de Asis where we were greeted by our CAFSA partners with so much love and excitement.
We did some really fun activities and then moved on to what I would call “The cutest show in the whole entire world”. We got to see kids from the ages of 3-5 perform some of their cultural dances. It was really exciting getting to see the kids enjoying performing. Well, some of them. A couple were nervous and shy, which I don’t blame them for. Having a bunch of “big people” staring at you must be really intimidating.
After that we were filled not only with love but with many of the CAFSA’s traditional foods like envueltos, yuca and one of their delicious drinks: lula. But wait there’s more: they served us more of their traditional foods to the point where our plate was completely full!  Although we were full, we couldn’t resist saying yes to any of the adorable children serving the food.
The time came to finally lead our classes of around 20-28 students of different ages. The previous day we spent a few hours preparing to lead the students into a full 50 minutes of fun activities! It was a great experience and an eye opener for me to realize how innocent and loving a child can be. At the end many of the kids hugged me and said their good byes.
Finally we had a tour of the El Codito, an ancient barrio built of history. We got to walk around and visit many beautiful places. Many of the views were breath taking. Nothing better than actually being able to breath, feel and hear a barrio where everyone is so united.

Today’s bloggers were Alejandro, Gissell, and Ms. Mtz.


Day One in Bogota!: Alan and Vanessa

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” -Margaret Mead
Ms. Martinez: Margaret Mead once said this without knowing that it would apply to a group of traveling Pumas in the capital of Colombia in 2017. At the end of the day, we reflected on our less-than-24 hours within the country, and this quote represented everything we saw, felt, and communicated with each other. A few of the highlights that unleashed these feelings are included below. Such a once-in-a-lifetime trip inspires, tires, and changes people, and blogging is one way for us to process in the moment, while keeping the memory alive forever (Thanks, internet!). Thanks for reading, and we welcome any comments, prayers, and positive vibes that you have for us all the way back in Minnesota, or wherever you’re reading. Have a Happy Thanksgiving!
Alan: It was my third time on an airplane and I still hate them. It gets boring and it is so uncomfortable. If you don’t know me, I LOVE Hamilton and of course I spent my whole time listening to the soundtrack. I think the best moment of our flight was playing LetterMix with Jose, Jose, and Jackeline. We just had to make words out of 5 letters. Mainly, the 1st place was a competition between Jackie and I. Also, Vanessa and I got lost for like an hour at the airport. We were trying to find McDonald’s and the directory map gave us the wrong directions but we ended up finding it.

A highlight of yesterday was arriving to the airport in Bogota, Colombia and as a surprise, our partners were waiting for us. It was the best welcoming I’ve ever received. It was so exciting to see our partners whom we’ve been talking to for months. Then we got to where we were staying and we found presents in our room. Honestly, they are so kind and respectful. I’m so thankful for all of them. When we got on the bus, we immediately bonded with our partners. It felt like we’ve known them forever. Then, today in the morning, we played some icebreakers and we had the best 2 leaders: Sofia and Lessy. They are full of energy and know how to get the spirit up. We sang and danced. I love the icebreaker where we sang about kitchen utensils (crazy right?!)

The most striking parts of today were the murals!!! They’re amazing! One mural that stood out to me was this one that said “Memoria”. Each letter represented a story. M represented the indigenous people. E represented how sometimes people get kicked out of their homes. M represented living in poverty. O represented the construction of highways and the effect that it has on people. R represents being an outsider and not getting help at all. A represents the relationship between urban people and people who come from small rural areas. I love the murals so much because it has so much symbolism even the tiniest detail have a story and symbolize something even greater. Art, especilly graffiti which is not valued, is the only way that people make their voices be heard. I find it interesting because in the U.S., for example I go to protests in order to be heard. There was this hashtag that said “no se quede mirando” which means don’t just stare and it’s basically saying to take action. Don’t stay silent and let injustice happen. If you see something, say something! Another powerful quote that I like that was on the highway was “sin plata pero tenemos suenos” which means that although we don’t have money, we still have dreams just like everybody else.

Vanessa: I agree with everything Alan wrote! In my experience today, we walked through downtown Bogota in the rain, then in the sun, then in the rain again while we interacted with many different cultures, including some indigenous folk from Colombia. I observed that there were spectacular things to see but what astonished me the most was the difficulties people live through. From a man who was missing his arms walking through the street, to many single moms stranded on the sidewalks with their children.

From people making their money by selling selfie sticks, or charging for taking pictures with them in costumes, to selling corn on the cob or juggling in the street, everyone here is trying to survive and take home a few dollars for their families.
At the end of the night, when we got together to process what we experienced, we all reflected the same emotion: gratitude. Especially as Thanksgiving is approaching, we all remembered the blessings in our lives. We were born in the United States- that’s a blessing. We have the opportunity to make a change- that’s a blessing. We don’t have to wait for these opportunities to show up in the newspaper or online or in the Campus Ministry office… We can start them ourselves right now!

Today’s bloggers were Alan, Vanessa, and Ms.Mtz!