Sunday, February 22, 2009

Meeting Dr. Dagoberto Castillo

I have been eating at the Alterna, a small casa de almuerzos, almost every day since I arrived; Antonio and Magali, their owners treated me as a real guest preparing nice arepas, arajicos, frijoles... and explaining what the ingredents were. That morning, Antonio introduced me to a man who was having lunch at the table next to me. He happened to be a profesor at La Salle University specialising in Economy and Local Development; Profesor Luis Eduardo Mutis told me that he knew a goup of people at the University who had been researching the comedores comunitarios, an initiative set up by the Council as part of the program Bogotá Sin Hambre (Bogota Without Hunger) and that he thought I might be interested in meeting them. "Of course!", I said; and he grasped the celular (mobile phone) and set up a meeting with Dr Dagoberto Castillo, the program's coordinator, right after our lunch.

Dr Dagoberto was sitting at his desk talking with his daugther when we arrived. Without much formalities after a warm welcome, he started explaining what the program was about: The program started in 2004 as a reponse to the phenomena of many children who'd fainted in the school because they lacked proper nutrional levels in their diet which mostly consists of Yuca (Manioc). These roots are very rich in starch, and contain significant amounts of calcium (50 mg/100g), phosphorus (40 mg/100g) and vitamin C (25 mg/100g). However, they are poor in protein and other nutrients.

138 comedores were established on the 19 localidades (quarters) in which the city is administratively divided: Usaquen, Chapinero, Santa Fe, San Cristobal, Los Martires, La Candelaria, etc. Through this program, people who have been displaced from their homelands have the opportunity to become involved in training and other activities to improve the very vulnerable situation in which they live.

I arranged with Dr. Dagoberto a visit to some of these places, and we decided that I will go to Ciudad Bolivar, one of the poorest neighbourhoods in Bogotá.

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