Monteria, located on the Sinu River in Colombia, is known as the cattle ranching capital of the country. Monteria, and the surrounding region is mired in abject poverty; thousands of people live without basic amenities such as potable water and sewage systems.

Colombia Rivers Region

The Location


The Population


The Religion

Roman Catholic

The Weather

  • Compassion’s specially designed curriculum teaches valuable social skills that many neglected children lack. The friendships that form as a result can have far-reaching effects on the lives of these children. Colombia Two Girls Smiling
  • These children find more than food, medical care, and instruction at Compassion’s child development center. They also find the companionship and attention that are missing in their lives. Colombia Children Studying
  • Despite living in extreme poverty, children like these in Compassion’s programs are known, loved and protected. Colombia Children Gathered in a Classroom
  • Clara Rodriguez, a Partnership Facilitator in Ecuador’s river region, often travels by boat to visit the programs she oversees. Colombia Clara Rodriquez Partnership Facilitator
  • The staff of Colombia’s field office takes a rare break for a photo. Compassion is blessed to have a large team of dedicated workers serving Colombia’s families most in need. Colombia Field Office Staff Photo
  • For many children, the meals served at Compassion-assisted child development centers are the only real nourishment they receive each day. Colombia Girl With a Plate of Food

Overview: River Region of Colombia

In Colombia’s northwest lowlands, the river region is dominated by three primary cities: Sincelejo, Magangué and Montería. Magangué is located on the Magdalena River, Colombia’s largest river. Montería, located on the Sinú River, is known as the “Pearl of the Sinú.”

The river region is ethnically diverse, with a mix of indigenous, European and African populations. The primary religion is Catholicism, practiced by 90 percent of the people.

Colombia’s terrain encompasses lowlands along the Pacific and Caribbean coasts, highlands and high Andes mountain peaks in the center of the country, and lowland plains in the east. The climate is tropical along the coast and the eastern plains, and more temperate in the central highlands.

The country is located in the “Ring of Fire,” a region of the world subject to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. However, although Colombia borders the Caribbean Sea, the country rarely is affected by the type of fierce hurricanes that devastate other Caribbean-bordering countries.


Culture Corner

Colombia Culture


(Fried Bananas)

Try this easy recipe featuring bananas, a favorite of Colombian children.


  • 4 small bananas, peeled
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 4 tbsp. brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp. water
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • ½ c. fresh orange juice
  • 1 tbsp. fresh orange zest
  • Vanilla ice cream for serving


Cut the bananas in half crosswise.

In a large pan over medium heat, cook butter for 1 minute. Add bananas, brown sugar, water and cinnamon stick. Cook bananas, turning constantly, for 5 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low. Add orange juice and orange zest. Cook 5 more minutes. Discard cinnamon stick. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.

Life in the River Region

The river region of Colombia is located in the northwest lowlands, where the Cauca, Sinu and Magdalena rivers flow into the Caribbean Sea. Though Monteria, a city on the Sinu, is known as the cattle ranching capital of Colombia, the region is mired in abject poverty.

Thousands of people live without such basic amenities as potable water and sewage systems. Little thought is given to services such as garbage disposal. As a result, people live among trash-filled streets and pools of stagnant, filthy water – ideal breeding grounds for disease-carrying mosquitoes.

Children at Home

The homes of poor families in the river region are typically built from wood and adobe, made by mixing mud and animal dung by hand. Other homes are made from whatever scrap materials can be found — including plastic and tin cans. These dwellings may measure no more than 215 square feet. Families of four to 10 members share a single room. And in many homes, firewood is used for cooking.


Community Issues and Concerns Community in Colombia

Poor communities in the northwest river region suffer because of a lack of basic services, such as proper sewage systems and potable water. Garbage is simply thrown onto the streets, which are typically unpaved, and pools of stagnant water are fertile breeding grounds for malaria-carrying mosquitoes. Families often tap into electrical lines illegally to provide electricity for their homes. But the resulting safety hazards — such as exposed, live wires — pose fire and electrocution dangers, particularly for curious little children.

Children’s chores often include hauling heavy containers of drinkable water over long distances. The lack of sanitation in their communities poses a huge health risk for them. Frequent river flooding is another problem for poor families.

Some parents earn a meager wage selling small items door to door or in the local markets. Others with motorcycles transport people from place to place for a small fee. However, the moto-taxi business is illegal since it undercuts the public bus and regular taxi businesses.

On average poor parents earn only the equivalent of $2 per day, hardly enough to supply their families’ basic needs.

Local Needs and Challenges

Heavy rainfall during the past winter season triggered floods and landslides throughout the region, making already difficult living conditions almost unbearable. Houses were destroyed. Raw sewage flowed with the floodwaters, creating even more dangerous circumstances for the poor families in the area.

Basic services such as potable water, sewage systems and garbage removal are desperately needed throughout the river region. Without them, infection and disease will continue to wreak havoc among Colombia’s most vulnerable population.


Schools and Education Education in Colombia

The school year in the river region begins in February and ends in November, with a short break in June. The government subsidizes all public primary education (first through fifth grade) and, in most cases, public secondary education (sixth through 11th grade).

Although most children in the region complete their secondary education, few opportunities exist for them to go further. Competition for enrollment in the few public colleges is stiff, and private colleges are simply too expensive for most people.

At the Compassion Child Development Center

At Compassion-assisted child development centers in Colombia’s river region, children are receiving the help and learning opportunities they need to reach their potential in Christ. Along with nutritious meals for proper physical development, they also receive medical assistance and hygiene training to stay healthy. Tutoring helps to make up for any school deficiencies, and most important, they learn about the love of their heavenly Father.


Working Through the Local Church

Compassion partners with local churches in the region to bring hope and relief to some of Colombia’s poorest people. Compassion’s child development centers, located in the churches, offer nutritious meals to children, many of whom are malnourished. They provide much-needed medical assistance and hygiene training to stem the tide of illness and disease that threatens the region. They offer tutoring to children who may not otherwise receive an education. Most significantly, they provide a place where neglected and abandoned children can go to receive attention and compassion – and to learn about the love of their heavenly Father.

Thanks to Compassion’s generous donors, we are making a difference in the lives of children in desperate need.

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 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

A Compassion Partnership Facilitator often possesses a passion not just for the job, but for the children. “I believe that I have to be an advocate of children, in order for them to be in a better condition each day,” says Clara Rodriguez, a Colombian Partnership Facilitator.

The facilitator must be a tireless advocate of children, and work with local churches to create programs that meet kids’ physical, emotional and spiritual needs.

Ensuring that the children are in a better condition each day is a tall order in a region crippled by poverty, unemployment, and wretched living conditions. Yet that is the work of the facilitator: creating a haven where children can find love, compassion, and hope for the future.


Prayer Requests

  • Pray for the health of children living in unsanitary environments in Colombia’s river region cities.
  • Pray for the parents and caregivers of Compassion-assisted children who need steady jobs.
  • Pray for the protection of children from the drug trade.
  • Pray for Compassion center staff members, who diligently strive to meet the needs of the children in their care.