LAWRENCE, Kansas — The COVID-19 pandemic has devastated the world in ways that could have never been predicted. Aside from the physical suffering of many because of it, financial hardships bore down on individuals globally. In Colombia during COVID-19, this has been no exception. Yet, there is notable hope for many Colombians because of Camila Ordóñez Vargas and Amor X Locombia (Love for Locombia).
The Onset of COVID-19 in Colombia
Many people in Colombia during COVID-19 have faced considerable financial setbacks that naturally affect all other aspects of life. The pandemic arguably could not have hit at a worse time, as poverty reduction around the country gained momentum.
COVID-19 made its first appearance in Colombia while the country housed Latin America’s fourth-largest economy. This fact, while indicative of Colombia’s economic makeup, does not paint the full picture. Wealth inequality is and has been present in Colombia for decades. In Latin America and the Caribbean in the 1990s, the most impoverished 10% of the population earned 50 times less than the wealthiest 10%. As COVID-19 entered the country, that 50 shrank to 22.
The Economic Impact of COVID-19
According to a study published in May 2020 by the Universidad de Los Andes, 49.7% of the population lived under the poverty line in 2002. That number significantly reduced by 2018 to 27%. The study predicts that the current COVID-19-induced economic crisis could completely reverse that progress. In April 2020, per a government-cited Integrated Household Survey, there were about 1.15 million new layoffs due to the pandemic. A government decree in 2020 estimated that 3.7 trillion pesos ($1.85 billion) in grant money would be needed for the unemployed.
The impacts of these financial losses are wide-reaching, affecting the livelihoods, housing situations and food security of many. Numerous agricultural business owners took to burning their fields because they did not have the means to pay their employees and take care of their crops.
A study published by Science Advances surveyed the economic impacts of the COVID-19 crisis in several countries, including Colombia. In Colombia during COVID-19, 87% of respondents testified that their income fell and 59% reported food insecurity.
Amor X Locombia and a Better Tomorrow
What is Amor X Locombia and why is it so beneficial to so many people in Colombia? Camila Ordóñez describes the campaign to the University Daily Kansan as “the best version of Colombia itself.” She went on, “It’s like the reinvented version of Colombia that people don’t see.”
Ordóñez, a student at the University of Kansas, went home to Barranquilla, Colombia, for spring break in 2020. Seeing the devastation and drastic life changes many people faced and still face in Colombia during COVID-19, she founded Amor X Locombia.
In an interview with the Kansas City Star, Ordóñez admitted many Colombians have come to ask, “Will I die of hunger or will I die of COVID-19?” To address this concern, she started Amor X Locombia as a fundraising campaign in April 2020 to bring much-needed food to Colombians who were most hard hit by the pandemic and its economic consequences.
Providing Hope to Vulnerable Colombians
All funds raised through the campaign go toward providing food, in the form of meal baskets, snacks and more, to poverty-stricken families, parishes and assisted living institutions. Food baskets provide for families of three or four for approximately a week and a half. As of June 2020, Amor X Locombia had provided around 1,000 food donations.
The campaign also funnels some money into “agricultural kits,” resources to uphold and advance peoples’ agricultural work.
The charity actively advocates on social media, collaborates with university and community resources and runs a fashion clothing line, LOCOMBIA X Nuestra Gente (Locombia for Our People). These activities garner financial support and provide more resources to Colombians in need.
The campaign’s social media sites, primarily Instagram and Facebook, are used as integral sources for sharing the impact of these efforts and advocating for the cause and advancement through donations. Colombian residents are able to donate via bank transfer through Amor X Locombia’s Instagram page, @amorxlocombia. Additionally, U.S. residents are able to donate through Zelle or Venmo to @amorxlocombia.
The Power of Humanitarian Efforts
Ordóñez spoke to the Kansas City Star about the on-the-ground influence of donations: “‘One U.S. dollar equals one lunch’” and “Eight U.S. dollars equals one entire food basket.” In the future, the charity will become an established nonprofit. Ordóñez started the paperwork to register it as such in the summer of 2020.
Amor X Locombia has clearly left a meaningful legacy in Colombia during COVID-19 and intends to do so in the future. In the words of Ordóñez to the Kansan, expressing the heart of the initiative, “Locombia to me is people who dream and people who work today in order to achieve a better tomorrow.”
– Claire Kirchner