The Wayuu People

Present day La Guajira is suffering from an extreme scarcity of non-contaiminated water.

The Wayúu People

In the north of Colombia lives an indigenous population encompassed by the La Guajira desert, the country’s largest. The Wayúu are one of Colombia’s most unique and largest indigenous populations, who have gained notoriety due to never being conquered by the Spanish. The people, dispersed throughout this enormous region, consist of scattered clans making do in the relentless environment. The actual size of the population throughout the area of La Guajira is not well known but is speculated to be in the hundreds of thousands. iHelp is excited to work with the people of this tenacious culture who face unique troubles in the harsh desert atmosphere.
Day-to-day life for The Wayuu involves some of the most extreme poverty, thirst, drought, environmental degradation, and malnutrition in Latin American history, as well as a severe migration flow. Despite their hardships, the Wayuu remain a humble culture full of unique attributes ranging from food, dancing, music, and art.

iHelp's La Guajira Región Medical outreach trip November, 2022

Our Impact

Through team focused efforts with other local nonprofits, and direct communication with community leaders, we plan to employ efficient, targeted, and long term-sustainable solutions to the communities in this region. We hope to continually work with the communities and other non-profits to build and enhance existing infrastructure, medical operations, educational systems, and access to water and nutrition. We plan to implement community growth projects and provide health and wellness through mobile medical clinics, food drives, fixing wells, establishing renewable energy, and creating efficient community gardens. Our marketplace permits local businesses to reach the international market and bolster economic activity within the communities. Our goal is to work with local non-profits and the Wayuu indigenous communities to help build a self-sustaining community that can work together to help address the social disparities they face.

The Wayuu people have a poverty rate of 84%, quite the contrast when compared to the 14.4% poverty rate of the United States (February 2022). With poverty often comes malnutrition, a circumstance in which more children die of in the La Guajira Peninsula than anywhere else in the country. It is estimated that malnutrition claims the life of 1 in 10 children under the age of five, yet a majority of the deaths that occur in homes rather than distant hospitals go unreported. These people have been termed “forgotten in the dust”, with as many as 5,000 Wayuu children dying in the past decade from malnutrition and lack of basic medical care.

Malnutrition in this area is further compounded by a desertification by foreign industry mining for coal and weather patterns that together diminish clean water in the area. Wells are almost all dry, and ones with water are left severely contaminated. All this has contributed to La Guajira’s environmental agency, Corpoguajira, to report that 75% of La Guajira families suffer from food insecurity.
The issues of the region are even more augmented with the recent influx of migrants seeking refuge from an unstable Venezuela, representing the largest migration of people in history besides to the Holocaust. Many women and children, who are exposed to abuse, neglect, and victimization do not reach major cities due to lack of money and live in informal settlements or on the streets with no guarantee of protection, jobs, education, or food security. Government programs for both the Wayuu and foreign migrants are often impeded by corruption and slow progress. By donating and volunteering in organizations such as iHelp, relief can bypass government and go to the people directly who need it the most.

Malnutrition and disease due to water scarcity and sanitation is perhaps the biggest threat to both individual and public health throughout the region of La Guajira. Working with Atix Fundación and other local organizations, we plan to repair and rebuild existing wells, build new wells, and improve sanitation processes within the communities. Increasing access to water specifically will help directly address the rampant dehydration malnutrition that threatens the inhabitants of this region, which sits at 6 times the National Colombian Average and claims the life of 1 in 10 children born in Wayuu communities.
iHelp also aims to implement innovative farming and food production methods using hydroponic technologies to help the communities in this region more efficiently produce food under water scarce conditions. The La Guajira region is very unique, with its hot and arid desert climate presenting unique challenges to implement hydroponic technology. To accomplish this long term goal, we will be working with local experts from Colombian Universities and Fundación Madrid Campestre to design, build, and test innovative approaches to this technology that are specifically designed for the challenges of the La Guajira region.

In the community of Sichichon, two dilapidated 5 by 6 meter rooms serve as the sole learning environments for over 100 students. In the community of Kalouyachon, no such structures exist for their youth.
In the Kalouyachon Communidiad, students study outdoors.
Kalouyachon School
This structure provides storage for educational supplies while students study outdoors.

iHelp is committed to improve the learning conditions in such areas by building new structures for the communities, improving access to internet, and collaborating with the community leaders to further address the unique needs of each population. Through talks with other Colombian nonprofits, we are capable of mobilizing a large labor force through volunteers to help us with this effort. We look to explore options that utilize locally sourced and recycled materials to introduce building methods that are both renewable and economically responsible, fulfilling our pledge of creating a significant and sustainable impact.

As the dry season progresses and wells dry up further, communities rely on generators to pump water up from their few deeper wells that reach the receding water table. While engaging in dental procedures during our joint medical outreach operation, the dental equipment specifically continually maxed out their power grid. Lights flickered on and off throughout the village while the dentist carried on providing dental procedures using headlamps.

iHelp plans to improve access to power sources by installing solar panels, turning the harsh desert sun into a positive force. In Kalouyachón specifically, we are actively obtaining parts and funding to repair a wind generator that has fallen out of commission. In its absence, survival through the dry seasons has become increasingly more difficult as water cannot be pumped up from the water table. iHelp is also committed to providing safety net power sources such as fossil fuel generators in the event renewable power sources suffer malfunction or damage.

The Wayuu are renowned for their craftsmanship, with the knowledge to make many of their crafts and works of arts being mastered and passed down over the generations. One way in which iHelp hopes to address its mission in La Guajira, is by offering and allowing individuals in the Sichichon and Kalouyachón communities to sell their products on the global market. Through the sharing of arts and crafts, these communities share their culture, identity, and values with the rest of the world expressed through their work.

Understanding and appreciating these crafts helps bring more attention to the cultures in which they belong to and the plights they face. Sales and pre-orders of items directly allow the craftsmen and women to provide for themselves and expand their own market, and in turn bolsters their local economies. This will help provide more opportunities and enhance the vertical upward mobility of individuals in these communities.

Profits from each item goes directly to the artisans themselves, their community, and iHelp to pursue its mission in the community in the ways highlighted above. Learn about the amazing and beautiful items crafted by the Wayuu below that we offer and visit our marketplace where you can preorder these handmade items to support the people and our mission in the region. WIth your purchase, you can help support our mission to create self-sustainable impacts in these communities today, and own a truly original, hand-made piece of art directly from the Wayuu.

Our Plans

iHelp plans to continue its relationship with the local Colombian nonprofit Atix Fundación, whom iHelp joined to conduct a medical outreach trip recently. iHelp will continue to provide resources with Atix Fundacion and more to expand and facilitate a mobile medical clinic, food drive efforts, educational advancements, infrastructure innovations such as clean water initiatives, and boost the local economic activity.

Wayuu Project Donation

$1 of $12,000 raised

Through our Partnership with the Atix Fundación, we hope to help bolster their efforts to continually care for these two communities and expand their efforts to other marginalized communities in the region. The Atix Fundación needs approximately $1,000 a month to completely subsidize these two communities with nutritionally dense meals, which has already significantly improved the overall health of these two communities. Of course, this is only a short-term solution, but it is necessary for immediate relief.

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Donation Total: $100.00