After visiting Colombia and getting to experience all the different YMCA’s and their social programs, meeting wonderful people and eating my fair share of fresh food, I couldn’t wait to get back and share it. This place has so much to offer and it was an eye opening experience for me and it was only nine days!

I decided to write about all of the different areas that our Gap Program would be going, what our participants would be doing and where we would be staying. Our first stop is Bucaramanga. Bucaramanga is the capital of the Santander department, which is the 9th largest city in the country. It is a beautiful city and is known as “La Ciudad de Los Parques” (“Th City of Parks”).

When the participants are in Bucaramanga, they will be staying at Kasa Guana which is a Backpackers Hostel. The accommodations are clean and spacious with a lot to offer. We will be staying in rooms with four to six beds so we can all be together and create life long bonds right away.  They have a kitchen, a hang out area with TV, trivia nights and opportunities for dancing during the weekends. This is a great way to visit other Colombians and other international travelers who will be staying there. I was excited to stay there and wish I could have spent more time in the Hostel.

Participants will mainly be working with the YMCA Santander. Though they are small, they have a strong community of staff and volunteers and an incredible presence in their community. The YMCA is made up of 5 staff and over 60 volunteers, half of whom have a strong presence in their communities. The overall goal of the programs is to teach children about peace and coexistence through leadership, conflict resolution and empathy. Speaking to the children who participate in these social programs, they feel like they have become better citizens of their school and within their communities. Our participants will be working along-side the YMCA volunteers in these communities and help the kids to further themselves and help them be the future leaders of their communities.  Here are some pictures of the communities and schools we will be working with.

I ate incredible food during my visit. Some typical foods you will find there are corn arepa, tamal, soups made with various grains and different types of meats and oblea, which is pureed fruit or caramel pressed between 2 large wafers. Though meat is common in many dishes, being vegetarian is easy to do. If you are gluten free, it is easy to find things that are made with corn or plantain flour.

This is just a quick glance as to what we will be doing during the first month in Colombia. Learn more about the program in the Gap Year section of our website.  If you have any questions or want to discuss the program more in-depth, please call me at 845-985-2291 ext. 265 or email zeigenbrodt@frostvalley.org.

About the Author

Zach eigenbrodt

Born and raised in Wisconsin, Zach couldn't keep himself out of the woods when growing up. He started working at a Northern Wisconsin YMCA Camp as a wilderness trip leader while in college and fell in love with getting kids into nature. The smiles on kids faces after returning from a once in a life time wilderness experience is why he is here today. Zach brought his talents to Frost Valley YMCA, in 2014, when he started as the Trips Coordinator and soon was promoted to Adventure Director. Zach loves all forms of Wilderness exploration, though some would say his heart lies most with canoeing.

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