A gala Colombian Fiesta is planned for Saturday evening, March 15, 2014, at the Century Plaza Hotel on Burrard Street, in support of a new international service project of the Rotary Club of Vancouver Sunrise. Our goal is to raise $35,000 in the next two years for expansion of two privately-funded schools serving refugee children and their families in Bucaramanga, Colombia.

The festivities on March 15 will include South American music, salsa dancing, a Colombian-style dinner and a silent auction. Four representatives of the non-profit Fundacion Estructurar, which operates the schools, will be in Vancouver for our Colombian Fiesta, including President of the Board Jorge Cabrera Cortissoz and senior staff members. We are also inviting representatives of the Consulate of Colombia to join us for this important evening.

After years of guerilla fighting in parts of Colombia, many refugee families have moved to places like Bucaramanga, a city at 3,000 feet in the Andes with about the same population as Vancouver. Unfortunately, the Bucaramanga schools are inadequate to handle the numbers of refugee children. Several years ago, with support from the local Rotary Club, Chamber of Commerce and a local contractor, a privately-funded school for 450 refugee students (nursery to grade 12) was built with a science lab funded by the Government of Canada. Later, the same group opened a second facility in another area of the city which now serves 72 nursery-school children. Both schools are scheduled for expansion, the first to 650 students and the second to 300. Here are some of the students with Ann-Shirley Goodell, our club president, when she visited the schools in 2012.


Two Rotary clubs in Bucaramanga have been active supporters of the schools and are raising funds now to furnish and equip the new classrooms in the expanded schools. They envision that some $60,000 to $70,000 will be required, of which they and a club in the Netherlands have already raised $25,000. The Rotary Club of Vancouver Sunrise is working with them to raise the remaining $35,000 or more. The 2014 Colombian Fiesta is the start of our club’s fundraising for this project and we will be applying for grants from The Rotary Foundation and/or Rotary Districts to match the amounts we raise.

Please join us for this fun-filled evening at the Century Plaza and support the education of refugee children in Colombia. Bring your friends and enjoy the Fiesta!