Travel Journal

Day 1: Orientation

Fundación serena del mar

On our first full day in country we held orientation in the Afro-Colombian fishing village of Manzanillo del Mar where we had the opportunity to meet all of our Colombian partners. Following introductions and lunch, we heard from a diverse panel of Colombian content experts. In the evening we had a chance to take in a Caribbean sunset by the sea and enjoyed a fun dinner outdoors!

Day 2: Site Visit


Our first site visit was to a school in south Cartagena, IE Bertha Gedeón de Baladí, with our Colombian counterparts. We were honored with a cultural welcome (including a marching band!), shot photos around the neighborhood in the afternoon, and the students began work on their first project centering on personal conception of peace and peacebuilding at the individual level. 

Day 3: Tourism


On day 3 we explored the Walled City of Cartagena and its surrounding neighborhoods, including Getsemaní and La Matuna. We took in the local street art in the morning, and had a chance to see the San Felipe Castle in the afternoon with time left to do some shopping in the evening. 

Day 4: Site Visit

Villa Rosa

We spent day 4 in the small, rural community of Villa Rosa, Atlántico, located about 2 hours southeast of Cartagena. We were hosted by Carrie, a Peace Corps volunteer, who is running OTL's in-country programming through the agency at present. Her school and community welcomed us with traditional folkloric dances from the region, a tour of their archeological museum, and a totally delightful photo walk where the kids photographed community leaders.  

Day 5: Site Visit

Manzanillo del mar

On day 5 we returned to the Afro-Colombian fishing village of Manzanillo del Mar. Alyssa, a Peace Corps Volunteer serving in the community, hosted us along with three Colombian counterparts. Our work here focused on the issue of reconciliation at the macro level and the students took portraits for double exposure pieces. For a mid-afternoon break, we enjoyed a lunch of locally caught fish while sitting out on the sandy beach. Our day ended with a screening of the documentary Impunity, a film that delves into some of the country's history and prepared our students to enter Montes de María the following morning.

Day 6: Site Visit

Montes de maría

As anticipated, the adventure to the very remote rural community of San José del Peñón was well worth the 6 hours we spent getting there and back. This community experienced a mass displacement in 2002 when the FARC arrived and ultimately killed a young man; the following day the entire town was on the move. Subsequently, only some 200 people have returned, and every single one of them joined us for lunch on our visit. Our student photography projects again centered on reconciliation at this site. Getting to shoot portraits of people who are the embodiment of this type of social change was a privilege none of us will soon forget. 

Day 7: Closing


On our final day we brought our Colombian counterparts back to the city. We spent the vast majority of the day editing photos and developing written content for this website from an open classroom at Cartagena's English-Spanish bilingual university, Unicolombo. We also made time for reflection at the end of the day; the students sat in a circle and shared their joy and gratitude with one another for having had the opportunity to meet other students who, like them, care about building a peaceful world.  Hearing everyone's takeaways was incredibly meaningful and a rewarding experience none of us will soon forget. 


North Americans


Age 15

        There’s a bond between the people there. They go through the same struggles together and in the United States it’s not that simple, it’s not that connected. I would like for Americans to strive for this community relationship. 


Age 19

           I felt lucky to be in a country that is grateful for what they have. I now believe I need to seize more opportunities. Colombia is a place I would like to return to.


Age 15

           I felt happy to see communities wanting to help each other. I saw communities that are very close [and] people striving for peace. I now believe you shouldn’t assume how people will be before you meet them.


Age 17

          At first I was worried, but I felt so welcomed into the villages and it was an amazing experience to work with others... Now I want to travel more.


Age 17

          This trip has really made me think about myself in different ways... looking at these people who’ve gone through so many difficult things and [who] are so resilient, it’s really incredible how they can be happy and welcoming even when they haven’t always felt safe to do so. It makes me feel like anything I go through I can still come out of it and be happy and kind to others.



Age 15

       Having interacted with the students from the United States, who enjoy photography like me, I feel very happy for these new relationships and to be a part of this program.

Quote translated from Spanish


Age 16

      This experience changed my way to see the world because I was thinking that the peace was impossible. Now I think that in Colombia we are working within the peace… In other countries [we are seen as] violent, we fight and all… but that’s not right... So when we take a picture we can change the minds of other people to show the true Colombian citizen.

Jose Davíd

Age 16

      I learned about how can we change the world through pictures and how can we teach others… how to be peaceful. The photography connect[ed] me with the Americans when we work together to have a good photo [and] interchange ideas.


Age 17

      My favorite part of this experience was to share with friendship... I have learned many things, for example photography… It is a way that we [can] identify as a culture and know how to represent it… Because I see the world in a different way through photography.

Quote translated from Spanish