Colombia I, the first groups of volunteers to enter Colombia, reported to training on June 25, 1961. They arrived in Colombia on September 18, 1961. They were the second group of volunteers to arrive overseas.
The first Peace Corps Colombia director was Christopher Sheldon. The movie “White Squall” was about his adventures with his life long passion with sailing ships.
Many of the first groups to enter Colombia were in community development, Accion Comunal. They helped organize rural communities to build/improve roads and schools, educate people about new methods and ideas to improve their lives, and– most importantly– give them the confidence that they can, by their actions, improve their lives.
Subsequent groups– and there were many– were in sports, university teaching, cooperatives, health and nutrition, architecture, educational television, literacy, agricultural development and diversification, and small business development.
Volunteers often came to Bogotá for meetings or R and R. They often stayed at a local pension called the Residencies Montreal (also known as “the pit”) and ate hamburgers and ice cream at the Crème Helado (ice cream).
During the 1960’s the average number of Peace Corps Volunteers (PCV’s) in Colombia was about 1,200 at any one time.
A total of 5,289 volunteers served in Colombia.
The program ended in 1981, lasting 20 years.
Friends of Colombia was instrumental in Peace Corps returning to Colombia after an absence of 29 years. The combination of the support of members of Friends of Colombia with the desire for Peace Corps in Colombia on the part of Ambassador Carolina Barco and the request by President Uribe, Peace Corps returned to Colombia in 2010.
Peace Corps started its reentry in Colombia in December 2010. Welcoming nine Response Volunteers (former PCVs from different countries) in Barranquilla, it is with their arrival that the Teaching English for Livelihoods (TEL) project was born. In order to honor the first generation of PCVs’ work in Colombia, those who served between 1961 and 1981, this new group was called CII-1. They were joined in January 2011 by the CII-2 cohort, partnering 14 Peace Corps Response Volunteers with an equal number of schools.
Peace Corps Colombia saw its first cohort of traditional Peace Corps Volunteers, C-II-3, join in October 2011. With 22 Volunteers swearing in, this group marked the first cohort since reentry to serve 27 months. As the TEL project was piloting a first Project Framework draft, the insights gained from this cohort were invaluable. It was a particularly exciting time, in which the training staff facilitated its first 11-week Pre-Service Training, and the first Host Family meetings were held.
Three more traditional cohorts of Peace Corps Volunteers have since followed them. Fast forward a year, and in August 2012, CII-4 arrived. With 29 Volunteers swearing in, thanks to a much more experienced staff, this cohort had an amazing training and 27 month service. In November 2013, the 27 CII-5 volunteers swore in. And by the end of November 2014, 33 members of CII-6 finished training, swore in as volunteers, and moved to their new sites. The new group of Trainees, CII-7, is expected in January 2016, as their Pre Service Training is expected to be aligned with the Colombian school year.
Further, Peace Corps Colombia is currently in the process of opening a brand new sector. At this point it’s called Community Economic Development (CED) and the first Response Volunteers to be part of this project will arrive in November 2015.
In January 2016, Peace Corps Colombia welcomed its 8th Volunteer group since its reopening in 2010. 29 Trainees arrived in Colombia to be part of the Teaching English for Livelihoods (TEL) Project, where they’ll be serving as English teachers and teacher trainers in rural communities in 4 departments along the Colombian Caribbean coast. After a three-month Pre-Service Training, this group will join other 22 current TEL Volunteers and 10 PCRVs working in Community Economic Development. CII-8 hails from over 15 states, making up a greatly diverse group of Volunteers, and excited to start work in Colombian communities.