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The Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony

What an amazing end to the project this ribbon-cutting ceremony was!  Img_3233I arrived in Sincelejo last week to find this sign waiting for me, the houses decoratedImg_3270 with balloons and crepe paper, and the families amassed to celebrate the grand-opening.  Accompanying me was Andy Rebele, my gringo friend and generous donor who pleasantly surprised me by calling from Panama saying, "I'm in the area and thought I'd stop by..."  He  was immediately surrounded by a hoard of Colombian kids who now think that all Americans are at least 6'2" who sweat profusely in the 95 degree "winter cold snap".

Img_3291_big After spending some time introducing Andy to the families I spentImg_3266 awhile reacquainting myself with old friends I hadn't seen in a few months and taking group photos (which I refer to as the "Where's Waldo?" pics).  After 3 months in the states I was amazed at how much Spanish I'd forgotten, but it came back quickly and I managed to give a welcome speech to the group, expressing satisfaction to the builders for their finishing touches and reminding all the families Img_3328that I was there on behalf of 450 donors from 35 countries whose generosity made it all possible that they enjoy a better life.  Many broke out into tears and applause at this point since it's so hard for them to believe that people in the US, Europe, Asia, and Africa are even aware of their plight not to mention willing to donate money to help. 

Our first task was to reveal the map of houses with owners' names (until that point they hadn't known exactly which would be theirs) and watch with enjoyment as they excitedly ran to check out their new homes.  There was certainly a reward for many of them for "believing" since all along there had been no promise or contract that I would ultimately deliver the houses.  I was reminded that these are people who have had a lifetime of hardship and badImg_3238_bw luck, so when I knocked on their doors 9 months ago asking if they wanted a new house they had Img_2847reason to be suspect.  Over many months they put in hours of work at the site, fed me, and prepared for their new homes based on nothing more than a handshake and a promise.  So this day was equally gratifying for me to not only put them in new houses but also to reward them for putting their trust in me to deliver.  Andy and I spent the next couple of days in Sincelejo and were approached by dozens of people who wanted to add their names to the list for a house.  It was painful to inform them that the project was complete and I was going home, but I was happy to see the pride on the faces of those who'd taken a risk and believed.

Click here to see all the pics from the ribbon-cutting ceremony and the happy faces of just some of theImg_3387 200+ people whose lives you changed forever.  It's with sadness I write this, likely my final entry in this blog, not only because such a wonderful project has come Img_3293_big to an end but also because it means the end of the opportunity to easily connect with all of you.  In the end we raised over $175,000 which was 75% over my original goal, resulting in 35 houses built (10 more than I'd originally planned!)  For my lifelong friends and family who've supported me through "yet another wild project" I'm forever thankful, and to my new friends whom I've gained because of this project I'm truly speechless of your generosity.  Thank you for joining me (and enabling me) to change a little part of the world.  PLEASE stay in touch...

best, -dave

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