Cartagena is located along the Caribbean coast of Colombia. Cartagena was decleared a UNESCO Cultural Heritage Site in 1984, and is considered the "jewel" of the Colombian Caribbean. Cartagena is a popular tourist destination in Colombia, and the tropical climate of the region adds to its appeal.

Colombia Coastal Region

The Location


The Population


The Religion

Roman Catholic

The Weather

  • Children in a Compassion-assisted center in coastal Colombia gather outside their church. The center offers them a refuge from the poverty and despair of their daily lives. Colombia Children and Staff Outside of Center
  • Many children in the coastal region of Colombia are left unsupervised while their parents work – or seek work – outside the home. These kids are vulnerable to the dangers of the street. Colombia Children Riding Bikes
  • This house is typical in the region. Homes are often hastily constructed with whatever building materials are available. They offer little security for the families who live there. Colombia Small Home and Fence
  • People who do not have running water in their houses must go to wells like this one to extract it. Colombia Girl at Water Well
  • Thanks to the generosity of our sponsors and donors, Compassion is able to provide nutritious meals to kids who might otherwise go hungry. Colombia Children Waiting for Their Lunch
  • Compassion-assisted child development centers are changing young lives throughout Colombia. These children are learning that God has a plan for them. Colombia Children in the Classroom

Overview: Coastal Region of Colombia

Colombia has lowland coastal regions along both the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. Compassion’s child development centers are located on the Caribbean coast in and around the cities of Barranquilla, Santa Marta, Cartagena and Urabá.

These colorful cities combine traditions of indigenous people with those of Europeans and Africans, who arrived in the colonial period. Santa Marta was the first city founded in Colombia by the Spanish. And Cartagena, declared a UNESCO Cultural Heritage Site in 1984, is considered the “jewel” of the Colombian Caribbean. Urabá is best known for its beaches and natural beauty, and Barranquilla is an important Colombian center of commerce.

The coastal region’s temperature averages between 77 and 89 degrees and may go over 100, and the humidity is around 90 percent year-round. The rainy seasons on the coast are April to May and October to November. November through February tends to be windy, although cool breezes provide relief from the high temperatures.

Thankfully, Colombia’s coast rarely is affected by the hurricanes that devastate other locations in the Caribbean. However, flooding sometimes occurs during the rainy months, which can prove disastrous to poor families who live in fragile, makeshift homes.


Culture Corner


Try this easy, traditional dessert recipe from the Caribbean coastal region of Colombia.


  • 2 c. coconut milk, fresh or canned
  • 1 c. long-grain rice
  • 2 c. water
  • ⅓ c. raisins
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 tbsp. sugar


Place coconut milk in a heavy saucepan and cook over medium heat for about 30 minutes.

Scrape the bottom of the pan occasionally to prevent the titoté (caramelized cooked coconut milk) from burning. Add the rice and cook, stirring frequently until well coated with the titoté for 1 minute.

Add water, raisins, salt and sugar.

Bring to a boil, stirring once.

Reduce heat to low and simmer.

Cover until the rice is tender and the water absorbed, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand for 5 minutes. Serve hot.

Life in the Coastal Region

Colombia’s lowland coastal region borders the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. The cities in this region, including Barranquilla, Santa Marta and Cartagena, are popular tourist destinations. The tropical climate of the region adds to its appeal.

The disparity between Colombia’s richest and poorest people is distressingly obvious on the coast. The wealthy live in luxurious homes and work in state-of-the-art office complexes. The poor, meanwhile, are forced to make do with shelters built from discarded materials. They lack such basic amenities as running water and sewage systems.

The ravages of unemployment and poverty can be seen throughout the region. Many parents make less than $1 a day, barely enough to keep their families alive. Malnutrition and disease also loom as constant threats to Colombia’s coastal residents.

Children at Home

Over the past decade, to escape drug-related violence, many families from the Colombian countryside have moved to cities like Cartagena. Without any financial means, they have built homes out of scrap materials in undesirable, unsafe locations such as swamps, which are particularly vulnerable to flooding during the rainy months. Homes in these poor neighborhoods typically are built on stilts and are painted bright colors.


Community Issues and Concerns Community in Colombia

In the Caribbean coastal region of Colombia, children and communities in general suffer from the lack of potable water and adequate sanitary services. This region also lacks a proper sewer system. This need is especially problematic in the remote coastal populations, where water has to be extracted from wells, because running water is not available to a number of homes there.

Many homes of sponsored children lack sanitary services. Families must use latrines and improvised rooms, where they shower with water they collect in buckets. The country office has requested funds from Compassion’s Complementary Interventions program in order to provide bathrooms for some child development centers, because many of them need improved sanitation facilities.

Local Needs and Challenges

The disparity between the rich and the poor in coastal Colombia makes the poverty and suffering in the region even more heartbreaking. The poor live in the shadows of modern buildings, fancy hotels, and luxurious homes, yet they do not have access to potable water or adequate sewage systems. As a result, malaria and waterborne illnesses are constant threats. Unemployment has ravaged the region. Many parents make less than $1 a day, hardly enough to cover their families’ needs.

Poor adults in this area suffer high unemployment and underemployment. Also of concern is the fact that as seaports and tourist destinations, these coastal cities are centers of drug commerce and are often dangerous communities for children. Overcrowded public schools make it difficult for children to receive a quality education.


Schools and Education Education in Colombia

In the Caribbean coastal cities, 89 percent of children ages 6 to 10 attend elementary school. In secondary school, that percentage drops to 83 percent. Sadly, the best schools are private ones that poor families cannot afford.

Public schools are overcrowded, with up to 40 students per classroom, as opposed to 15 students per classroom in private schools. In addition to overcrowding, public schools provide a poor quality of education.

At the Compassion Child Development Center

Compassion serves children in Colombia’s coastal region through local, church-based child development centers. Here, children have the opportunity to develop their talents and abilities. Their healthy physical development is assured through nutritious meals, hygiene training, and regular medical checkups. They also learn about their heavenly Father and are introduced to salvation in Jesus Christ.


Working Through the Local Church

Compassion is making a difference in the lives of children in Colombia’s coastal region through its child development centers. These centers are hosted and staffed by local churches in the region.

These centers take care of the children’s physical needs by providing nutritious meals every day, offering much-needed medical care, and teaching good hygiene habits in order to prevent the spread of disease. They address the children’s emotional needs by surrounding them with loving staff members. For many kids in the program, this is their first exposure to adults who care deeply about their well-being. They take care of the children’s spiritual needs by introducing them to God’s Word and His love for them.

How Compassion Works in Colombia Compassion in Colombia

Compassion’s work in Colombia began in 1974. Today more than 59,500 children are being served by more than 219 child development centers throughout the country. Young lives are being changed daily in these centers, thanks to the generosity of Compassion’s donors. Yet for all of our impact, there is still much work to be done. Currently more than 7,000 registered children in Colombia are waiting to be sponsored.

The Role of a Partnership Facilitator

Partnership Facilitators in coastal Colombia coordinate Compassion’s programs with local church leaders and lay people. They familiarize workers with Compassion’s specially designed curriculum and teach them to present it in ways that will reach the young people in the program.

The facilitators are passionate about their God-given calling to help those who are in need. Many oversee several different programs in the region. These men and women look into the depths of poverty and despair and see hope. They work in some of the worst conditions imaginable, yet they feel privileged to be able to deliver a simple and amazing message to the people in their care: that God has a plan for each one of them.


Prayer Requests

  • Pray for the health of children living in an unsanitary environment in Colombia’s coastal cities.
  • Pray for the parents and caregivers of Compassion-assisted children who face unemployment or underemployment.
  • Pray for the protection of children from the drug trade and child prostitution.
  • Pray that the wealthy minority in this region will open their eyes and hearts to the plight of the poor.
  • Pray for Compassion center staff members, who diligently strive to meet the needs of the children in their care.