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Here at IMPULSE, we have made it our mission to take care of the people that are important to us while steering through this crisis. Backed by our strong partners at Booking.com, Tourism Cares, and ProColombia, we have launched an initiative that will boost social transformation and make local communities emerge stronger from the current challenges. Read on to learn about the impressive stories of local peace and culture leaders and how we will help them grow their projects.

It’s okay to postpone travel but it’s not okay to stop social transformation

Over the last few years, our team has strategically focused on connecting vibrant communities to the tourism value chain to enhance their projects through this potent economic engine. Facilitating an exchange between local narratives of peace and culture and international travelers not only brings economic benefits but also empowers local communities and drives social transformation. To date, we have collaborated with 15 community projects, each making a unique contribution to shaping a brighter future for our country.

The IMPULSE Team in Comuna 13 with leaders from the Afro Tour and Tourism Cares

The global pandemic has put a sudden halt to the sustainable income these projects have been generating with tourism. Community leaders and members can’t support themselves and their families with basic needs such as food, rent, health, and utilities which gives them even less base to keep investing time, effort, and funds into their projects. Their important initiatives aimed at building peace and preserving Colombia’s diverse culture are at risk of falling apart. 

This is why we have started “Líderes de Cambio” (Changemakers), a project that aims to guarantee the continuity of community projects by providing much-needed income and help to keep their projects prospering during these uncertain times so they can emerge stronger from the crisis.

Big steps toward making a change

Since the end of April, we have been crowdfunding to build a Quick Aid fund for the vulnerable leaders and communities we work with. Through the support of ProColombia, Tourism Cares, and our incredible community of conscious travelers, businesses, and advocates we have collected a total of over USD 14,000 - but we won’t stop there!

Elcy and Angela from Moravia Tours, one of the projects to benefit from our crowdfunding initiative

Through participating in the Booking Booster in 2019, we have found an influential ally with a deep understanding of how tourism can create a positive impact, which has been a tremendous support in fulfilling our vision to transform lives through travel. 

As part of Booking.com's ongoing support of its community of Booking Booster alumni, which now includes 30 sustainable tourism startups and NGOs globally, special supplementary funding has been provided to 10 projects proposed by Booster alumni to help alleviate the impact of the global pandemic on the sustainable tourism value chain, primarily at the local community level.  Our “Líderes de Cambio” proposal is one of the 10 projects that was selected to receive additional support from Booking.com.

As described by Marianne Gybels, Director of Global Sustainability at Booking.com: “We continue to be impressed by IMPULSE’s vision and look forward to continuing to support the impact they hope to achieve through this project, particularly for the local communities they serve in Colombia. We truly believe in the power of ongoing collaboration with the growing network of like-minded organizations and social entrepreneurs we have built. As such, we’re excited to see the results of this program, and how it contributes to our shared long-term ambition to help drive meaningful impact in sustainable tourism.” 

Regarding the impact of this project, our CEO Rodrigo Atuesta stated: “With the continued support of Booking.com, this initiative will be built into a well-planned support system including educational opportunities, investment plans and personalized consultancy for each project. This is great news for Colombia's sustainable travel industry since the project will strengthen the link between tourism and 15 local communities, where 60,000 people are impacted." 

Project leaders will receive expert advice on how to formalize their project, mental and psychological techniques to steer themselves, their project and their community through difficult times, and biosafety to offer responsible and amazing travel experiences for when tourism starts up again. The program also includes an on-going, facilitated exchange of experiences and advice between the communities.

Duberney, ex-combatant and one of the leaders of the project Rafting for Peace

The first phase of the project implementation initiated last week with realizing the first of 4 quick aid payments to the communities that will be made over the next 3 months. From August onwards, the communities will then have the opportunity to develop projects for additional funding of COP $80,000,000 to keep building peace and protecting culture during the challenging time ahead.

The real stars of this initiative

Our entire team takes immense pride and heartfelt satisfaction in spearheading such a crucial project. Despite facing challenges, we remain steadfast in our dedication to our mission. Yet, the true heroes of this endeavor are the leaders and communities across Colombia who are actively participating. These projects are pioneers, offering innovative and creative solutions to foster peace, preserve culture, and catalyze social transformation in our nation, ultimately enriching the lives of countless individuals.

Meet-up between the projects Rafting for Peace and Breaking Borders

What these leaders need is someone to believe in their idea, connect them with like-minded people and give them fertile ground to grow their projects. This is exactly what we are aiming for with our Changemakers program,” said Nikola Kelch, CMO at IMPULSE. 

We decided to work with all 15 community projects in this initiative to broaden the impact that we will create together with our partners. The projects all have a unique approach to change and, therefore, positively impact different social and ethnic groups. Between the communities, there are 6 women-led initiatives, 3 projects built by indigenous groups, 3 projects led by Afro-descendant groups, 6 projects that focus especially on young people, 6 projects that protect cultural heritage and 7 initiatives that broke violence circles in the local community including one group of ex-FARC combatants on their way to reintegrate themselves into society.

Eujua Só: A local enterprise selling handicraft goods and artisanal products. The initiative is led by women from the Embera indigenous group and backed by different indigenous communities with the aim of eliminating stigmas about the coca plant that has spiritual and medical value in their cultures.
Wuasikamas: The Inga indigenous community of Aponte, replaced Amapola crops, an illicit plantation, with sustainable coffee cultivation to preserve their land, language, and traditions contributing to the building of peace in Colombia.

Distrito Chocolate: Family farmers from the Pauna region, that replaced coca crops with cacao plants to build peace in their home and create a base for reconciliation through the magic of chocolate.

Juan Antonio, Leader of the Project Distrito Chocolate

Breaking Borders: A group of ex-gang members, that left their criminal past behind to become tour guides of their neighborhood and share history and art to create a better future for their children.

Weaving Hearts & Carving Lives: Wood and fabric workshops led by women and ex-convicts from the Egipto neighborhood in Bogotá, creating an alternative source of income as well as helping to reweave the social fabric of the area.

Traditional Chefs: Luz Dary is a leader who has changed the face of many local markets. She and her fellow female traditional chefs are reestablishing the value and preservation of these important social and cultural hubs.

Luz Dary, traditional chef and leader at the local markets

Moravia Tours: Rebuilding, gardening and recycling projects led by female leaders of the Moravia neighborhood in Medellín. Once a dump yard, Moravia is today, is a place flourishing with culture, color and captivating flower gardens.

Mangle: Lina or “Cafeína” founded a capoeira project, to teach young people this Brazilian martial art as a way of anger management and community building to put an end to violence.

Unión Latina: A dance school born out of the passion of its teacher Yoiner who teaches dance to young people as a way to keep them off the streets and teach them self-love and confidence.

Afro Tour: A project that shows Comuna 13 in Medellín from a different perspective and tells the story of how young locals learned to appreciate their Afro roots through the music they love most and separate themselves from local violence issues.

Fredy, Leader, and guide for the afro tour in Comuna 13, Medellín

Rafting for peace: A group of Ex-FARC combatants who became professional rafting instructors and have created a project to share their transformation history and the beauty of the Caguan region with visitors.

Fishing with locals: Fishermen from the village of La Boquilla are cherishing and preserving artisanal fishing techniques by sharing them with visitors and contributing to the preservation of the delicate mangrove ecosystem that supports the community.

Zenú Weaving Workshop: A group of women from the Zenú indigenous tribe work for the preservation of their traditions and history in weaving workshops.

Tambores de Lamba: A local drum and music workshop led by Janer, who teaches rhythm to young people of the area in an effort to preserve the traditional music of the region.

Janer, “Tambolero” and teacher at the percussion school Tambores de Lamba

Don Abundio y sus Traviesos: A group of dancers and singers of different ages led by Don Abundio,  that protects culture and tradition through their musical performance.

IMPULSE's initiative, in collaboration with allies such as Booking.com, Tourism Cares, and ProColombia, demonstrates a genuine commitment to social transformation in Colombia. Through programs like "Change Leaders," economic and educational support is provided to community projects affected by the pandemic, ensuring their continuity and strengthening. The diversity of projects, from cultural preservation to the reintegration of ex-combatants, reflects a comprehensive approach to improving people's lives and building peace.

If you would like to learn more about our social compromise please visit our sister NGO Collective by Impulse at https://www.collectiveimpulse.org/ and reach out to us at info@impulsetravel.co if you would like to get more information about our work towards peace in Colombia or book with confidence any of this experiences on our
experiences website!

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