Colombia: A ‘crowdfunding’ initiative to reactivate the island of Providencia, devastated by Hurricane Iota | International

These are some of the small businesses that can be supported at
These are some of the small businesses that can be supported at www.reacivaprovidencia.coUNDP

Before Hurricane Iota, which destroyed 98% of the island of Providencia, in the Colombian Caribbean, everyone knew the fish balls from Las Delicias de Pan Tam Beach. “I had the store up front, I was doing very well. I can’t complain, but the hurricane took the business, I didn’t get a plate back. It completely disappeared, ”says Sharon Taylor, owner of the fast food outlet. She and her husband managed to survive that night on November 16, 2020 that left thousands of people homeless. “We managed to get into the kitchen but the water began to rise to a height that we could no longer bear,” recalls the woman. A huge boat that entered the house threatened to hit them. Taylor’s rondón, the island’s typical dish, is one of the most highly praised.

In another corner of Providencia, Iota ended the recent investment that a young couple had made in their native inn to recover from the lack of tourists during the pandemic. With the passage of the hurricane, the historical summer, the second floor and the color of this lodging with more than 40 years called Colorfull Garden House left. The hurricane further removed the dream of having tourists again, who move the economy of this Caribbean island. “We invite people to help us reactivate the island because we have a treasure, we dream that people can come and enjoy this beauty,” asks Jeniffer Palmera, one of the owners of the inn, where workers from the inn are staying today. reconstruction.

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The word reactivation is pronounced in Providence as an urgency, as a need to turn the page and start over. Throughout 2021 most of the villagers concentrated on surviving – some spent several months sleeping in tents – and getting their homes rebuilt. The reconstruction promised by the Government of Colombia has been slower than expected and now its inhabitants are looking for alternatives to continue with their work.

With the advice of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), they have just launched a platform for crowdfunding called to raise money for small businesses like Sharon’s or Jeniffer’s. UNDP participated in the initial diagnosis of the destruction of the island with a technology that they have already used in other disasters, built 10 houses and is repairing 50 native inns in alliance with the National Tourism Fund (FONTUR), the Colombian Society of Engineers (SCI) and the National Learning Service (SENA).

Alejandro Pacheco, UNDP Deputy Resident Representative, has experience in disasters such as the 2010 Haiti earthquake and explains that, in addition to rebuilding homes, it is important to support “recovery of livelihoods”. “We identified that the challenge was the posadas and we began a plan of financial inclusion until the fundraising,” he says. The plan he mentions began with “capital mobilization” – non-reimbursable investments for the purchase of supplies, inventory, machinery and equipment – and continues with the refinancing of the debts that these businesses had. At that point, the UNDP assumed a percentage of the formal debts of these small companies so that their owners had a period of relief in the payment of their financial obligations and gave them advice on business strengthening.

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They are now in the fundraising phase and have launched the platform for crowdfunding with music, another of the brands of the island of Providencia. Below the video of the launch concert with local artists and other Bogota citizens are the stories of the 30 businesses: that of Karen Livinstong, who had an audiovisual and events production company and is seeking help to recover her equipment; that of Joany Webster, owner of Jodeigissh, the only one that sells shoes and clothes in large sizes for the enormous bodies of the Raizales, and is looking to have a place again; or Providencia Food Producers, an association that promotes the cultivation of products on the plots and seeks to guarantee the food sovereignty of the island.

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Each one has a goal of raising up to five million pesos (about 1,250 dollars), although it can also be contributed to a common fund, both administered by UNDP. The objective is to revive the initial solidarity of November 2020, when the disaster occurred, so that those who want to start a business can contribute to the expected reactivation of Providencia.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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