How to help vulnerable communities in Cartagena

Cartagena is undoubtedly a beautiful city, but beyond the walls and away from the tourist areas, lies another Cartagena.  The city, despite its popularity as a tourist destination, has the highest rate of inequality in the country, with many people living day-to-day in severe poverty. This is the Cartagena that many tourists never see. Thankfully there are many foundations and initiatives in the city working tirelessly to support vulnerable communities and create opportunities for individuals.  Here at Hi Cartagena, we want to highlight five of our favourite foundations in the city – four in Tierra Bomba and one in La Boquilla.  If you would like to help any of these projects as a volunteer, there is more information below and Hi Cartagena can connect you, before, during or after your trip.

Foundation el Arca de Noé

Foundation Arca de Noé runs education and empowerment programs on the island of Tierra Bomba for children and adults in extreme poverty.  They run sporting activities, nutritional education, social and environmental programs, and cultural and musical classes.  Every Saturday, there are programs running for children aimed at enriching their knowledge and supporting them with opportunities.  The foundation welcomes monetary and in-kind donations – for example, sporting or educational materials.  Longer-term visitors to the city can also volunteer by delivering workshops. If you’d like to find out more, please contact us at Hi Cartagena.  

Foundation Amigos del Mar

Foundation Amigos del Mar run programs for young people in the town of Tierra Bomba on the same-named island.  Here you’ll find young people learning how to surf, while they learn about the environment through beach clean ups.  You’ll find them taking part in creative and artistic programs, documenting their lives, while learning from professional photographers and filmmakers.  And you’ll find Amigos del Mar supporting entrepreneurial businesses, for example helping locals set up a pizza kitchen and making and selling useful products, often from upcycled materials.  They have plenty of great products to buy that make a tangible difference or individuals can donate to programs, sponsor a young person’s college place and get involved as volunteers.  You can find out more at their website.   

Las Mujeres de Tierra Bomba

This local volunteer project, supported by the Calvary Chapel Church in Bocagrande, helps women in Tierra Bomba to generate an income by learning how to make the most beautiful bowls and coasters from old newspapers and magazines. These products are of high quality, are registered and provided with an authenticity label. The entire revenue from each sale benefits the women associated with this project, and their families.  They regularly host exhibitions in Cartagena and also export the bowls for sale in the USA.  Take a look and buy some bowls via Hi Cartagena.

foundation Green Apple

Foundation Green Apple is a social impact project operating from Blue Apple Beach on the island of Tierra Bomba.  They create training and employment opportunities through the operation of a glass and food waste recycling service for bars, hotels, restaurants and clubs in Cartagena.  So far they’ve diverted over 100 tons of waste from landfill – glass bottles are converted into sand for construction or into glasses, lamps and vases, while food waste is turned into compost and used in the gardens to grow produce for local restaurants.  If you visit Blue Apple Beach, you can take a tour of the foundation and meet the team and the artists creating products.  They also have a shop at Townhouse, and if you’re buying a cocktail in Cartagena, check out the menu – many bars have special cocktails where part of the proceeds go to support the foundation’s activities.

Nahila con amor

Nahila con Amor are a foundation working in the Marlinda part of La Boquilla, supporting the community there who live in extreme poverty.  Like the island of Tierra Bomba, communities live without running water and sporadic public services.  As well as educational programs for young people, they also run regular musical workshops.  If you would like to help this foundation, you can make a monetary donation or offer support by purchasing a food package for a family.  We can also arrange a visit to meet the community and see the program in La Boquilla, before or after a day at the beach.

Volunteers Build Resilient Communities

We believe that by understanding the local culture, identifying local champions, we can change the status quo and improve the lives of hundreds of children and their families.
cartagena volunteers
Cartagena, Colombia