Sidwell Group Visits Cancer Patients in Cartagena

Adeoluwa Fatukasi '21

During spring break, a group of nine Sidwell students went on a service trip to Cartagena, Colombia. The group worked with kids at Funvivir, an organization that provides housing for families who have children battling cancer.

This is the second time Sidwell has taken a group of students to Colombia to help with this program. Senior Elena Salinas O’Toole, who was one of two returning students, spoke about her experience coming back, saying “I think the best part was reconnecting with the people because for me what made this trip so special was the people we met. They continue to inspire me with their kindness, their warmth, and their motivation.”

Each day, the Sidwell students visited the Funvivir house in the mornings. With the Funvivir students, they did puzzles, made friendship bracelets and played board games. 

Towards the middle of the week, the children, parents, staff and students went out to town. They ate lunch together and watched a movie in the local mall. Many of the younger kids said they enjoyed this day the most.

The older Funvivir children, including 19-year-old Laura Grau and 20-year-old Yeleides Villa, spoke about their favorite aspect of their time with the Sidwell group. Grau said her favorite experience was “the first day that [the groups] met, played, and made memories.” 

Similarly, Villa said, “My favorite part of the week was meeting [the Sidwell students] and the moments that we shared.”

While only one week, the program between Sidwell Friends and Funvivir extends beyond spring break. One goal of the program is to develop a relationship between the cancer patients and the Sidwell students. 

Through Skype, social media and texting, the students maintain their friendships by helping the kids speak English and connecting with them about once a week.

Both the Sidwell students and the kids at Funvivir were upset that the trip came to a quick end. On Easter, the group hosted a goodbye party complete with dancing, a cake and an Easter egg hunt. 

“I think it was just great that we got to make this new bond, this new friendship, and all this happiness,” sophomore Romina Matin said. She and the other Sidwell students hope to return soon to Colombia to see their new friends.

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