While hanging out in Medellin, Colombia I have been wanting to do some volunteer work, through photography, somehow someway but hadn’t really researched it out prior to coming. Like all things I do, I just wing it and hope for the best. A friend told me about a gringo helping displaced families in the mountains surrounding Medellin. Once I heard that I started to do search on locating this man and seeing if there was something I could do to help. I have spent one day with him so far and plan to do more in the near future.
Angeles de Medellin is a program started by Mark “Marcos” Kaseman to help victims of violence from Colombia’s civil war that are now displaced. He started the program 6 years ago and it now consumes all his time . I’ll let Mark tell you more about it below.
For email subscribers, click here to see the video that explains it all
“Hello, my name is Mark Kaseman and I am from Fairport, New York. I have lived in Medellin, Colombia since May of 2005. Since March 2006, I have worked with the poor and displaced children and families that live high in the mountains above the city of Medellin. My program is called ANGELES DE MEDELLIN.
Thanks to donations from loving people around the world, I am able to purchase food, clothing, medicine and school supplies for children and their families. All donations go directly to helping these families. I work out of my home in Medellin and have no staff. A wonderful Colombian lady named Sara Zuluaga Parodi, has volunteered in helping me for various events especially with translations since June of 2009.
I volunteer teach at a private school, Leon XIII, located in the mountains where I work. Five days a week, Monday through Friday, I travel an hour and a half from my home to assist in teaching classes in English and Computers. In March of 2010, Allen Chen, a generous American from Los Angeles, California, donated 5 computer systems to our school. Because of his gift over 250 children, ages 5 – 17, have now begun learning to type and use computers. 98% of the children in my school Leon XIII had never touched a keyboard in their lives before this March.
Every day that I work in the mountains, I marvel at the love and kindness that these children and their families have given to me. For the past 5 years I have been blessed with hundreds of new-found friends. These lovely people are poor but happy, caring and loving, humble and appreciate everything that I am able to do for them. Many homes are made of plastic sheeting wrapped around wooden poles with dirt floors. They are all displaced from Colombia’s 60 year civil war and civil violence in the city of Medellin itself. These families are innocent victims of gang violence and have had to flee their former homes or farms with just clothes and nothing else.
Because of the generosity of many “Angels,” I have been able to sponsor events and provide support thoughout the year. This past year, I purchased crutches for a 19-year-old girl named Viviana, who lives in abject poverty. She was born without one leg and is missing most of her fingers. Yet every day, she cooks and maintains her home for her 3 brothers while her mother works as a cleaning lady in the city. Viviana is my HERO! She smiles and is happy every time I see her. She is just one story of the many lives that I have been able to touch and make better because of friends learning about my program and helping me help her and her family.”
The work Mark has been doing is extraordinary, especially since he’s doing it all himself. He was there when FARC Rebels actually had control of the area but he prevailed and kept his program going through it all. Mark is the real deal and can’t say enough good things about him! It’s people like him that I get to meet along the way, of my unreorganized travels, that make the world great and is “Why I Travel”
A girl sits in front of a computer station that Mark was able to get donated. He said she comes in everyday to practice her English through games on the computer and can now type 40 words a minute!
Mark shows up Mon-Fri from 10:30-3:00 pm to open the learning center for the kids. We got there right at 10:30 and he wanted to show us around the village first before opening the doors. Mark took us around for 30 minutes pointing out the simple homes people had made with scrap material, explaining issues and introducing us to families. Every five minutes though a child would ask him when he was going to open the learning center!
A little girl sits in front of the computer doing lessons that Mark has acquired for the center.
Mark making rounds in the neighborhood while talking with families about issues, ideas, to just saying hello. Almost anywhere he walked he had a troop of at least 3-5 kids following him.
If you want to volunteer and make a difference while in Medellin, contact Mark as he is always open for support, either it be teaching English to help with future projects.
If you would like to know more about Mark and Angeles de Medellin, see below:
- Website: Angeles de Medellin
- To join his Facebook Group, where he is active weekly on posting content
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or Marcos@Angelesdemedellin.com
- Location: Regalo De Dios in Bello, Colombia. Take the metro to the Santo Domingo stop, then take bus #050 to “Regalo de Dios” ($1,000 COP) which only takes about 15 minutes.