A city marked by its innovation and solutions to urban problems. An integrated public transportation system complete with cable cars and a metro. A citywide bicycle program. An outdoor escalator that shuttles citizens from steep mountainside homes to jobs and schools in the valley below. A library system with ground-breaking educational programs for children and adults. Community centers built in poor neighborhoods to promote social capital. Government programs to help mothers provide for the emotional and physical needs of their children.
I’m not describing a fictional city or utopia. I’m talking about the City of eternal spring otherwise known as Medellin, Colombia. In recent years, the city has undergone a wonderful transformation and welcomes visitors from around the world with open arms. Named the Most Innovative City in the World by Citi and the Urban Land Institute in 2013 – beating out New York and Tel Aviv – Medellin’s rebirth pales in comparison to the one thing that keeps me coming back again and again – its people!
The people of Medellin, or Paisas as they are affectionately called, have welcomed me into their hearts and homes since my first visit back in 2009. Through my relationship with programs like SosPaisa – the external relations initiative created by the Office of the Mayor of Medellin – I’ve been introduced to Paisas from all walks of life, occupations, socioeconomic classes and backgrounds. The one commonality they all share, however, is their positive outlook on life. Perhaps this quality is what helped Colombia earn the title of Happiest Country in the World in a 2012 WIN/ Gallup International Association survey. In Medellin, I’ve seen firsthand how being content, working hard, and supporting your friends and family translates to a fulfilling life.
In fact, this month I’m traveling with a team of volunteers to participate in Medellin’s strong sense of community. Working alongside corporate sponsors from Charlotte, AirTight and Toolwell, my company Rooster Communications will help bring Edwin Gil’s Faces of Diversity program to the families and children of Buen Comienzo. Faces of Diversity is an interactive art program that breaks stereotypes through art and dialogue, while Buen Comienzo assists families and their children from birth to five years.
Edwin is a native of Medellin and is responsible for igniting my love of the city and its people. This past May we were fortunate to get a tour of several Buen Comienzo pre-schools where children’s imaginations and minds were being stimulated by a dedicated staff of teachers. What’s more, it was finally clear to me why Medellin has undergone such a transformation. Programs like Buen Comienzo are hard at work instilling love, respect, and knowledge in the children. In doing so, they are creating future leaders who will carry the torch of innovation to communities across the world.
This is the first of a three part series from Rooster Communications president, Brian Cockman, who serves as Faces of Diversity project team leader. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.