Improving communities from within – ‘Mi Barrio Verde’


“The biggest changes are made by the people, like you and me. We can create a better world if we give people the right skills to do so.”

Ivan Bustillo would like to see Barranquilla grow from within. A psychologist who has been working in social empowerment for the last few years, Ivan first became involved in social change while in University, when he had the opportunity to travel abroad to the Ukraine, and within South America, to both Brazil and Paraguay. As a volunteer in community projects, he was awed and intrigued with the level at which humanity could adapt and overcome, even in the face of great turmoil.


In early 2014, Ivan founded the non-profit organization, Reccaribe to help people help each other. He ran workshops on urban development in local communities and spent almost all his free time pushing the positives of ecology, preservation, and shared growth. Later the same year, he entered a competition called Greenovators, hosted by the Inter-American Development Bank, as part of their strategy to help local projects implement solutions against climate change. Ivan’s entry, entitled “Mi Barrio Verde” (My Green Neighborhood) promised to take up the torch of sustainable improvement education in Barranquilla. One of just 16 finalists across Latin America, of over 800 entrepreneurs, Ivan was awarded the seed capital necessary to launch the project.


The ‘Mi Barrio Verde’ project has two primary aims. The first involves working hand-in-hand with citizens in their communities on climate change strategies. One such project involved building gardens using old, plastic soda bottles, minimizing landfill waste, enabling people to grow their own food, and perhaps most importantly, getting people engaged in working together to their shared benefit. That project culminated in the establishment of an environmental education center where people can go for information on urban agriculture, and in a manual on urban agriculture for residents.


The second goal of Mi Barrio Verde is hosting forums to socialize the work they’re doing in the communities and to gather local entrepreneurs and experts together to discuss advances, and build better practices. Last year’s forum was attended by some 150 people in all, centering on creating sustainable cities through urban agriculture and recycling. The event, which included a workshop on urban farming, was a huge success.


Later this month, on November 24th, Mi Barrio Verde is expecting 250 people for their 2nd forum. This year’s event will have 4 conferences in total, covering clean energy, sustainability, recycling, and urban agriculture. There will be various expert speakers on hand including Susana Muhamad, ex-Secretary of the Environment for the City of Bogota, Carrol Gomez, coordinator of the recycling program at UniNorte, and Daniela Samorano, director of the Political Ecology Institute in Chile. The forum will also feature several virtual speakers who will be discussing projects such as the creation of a solar-stove which is revolutionizing cooking in Guatemala.


Tickets can be purchased on Thursdays and Fridays between 9am and 5pm at Macondo Lab in Simon Bolivar University (Cra. 54 #64-223), or by contacting Reccaribe (see below). Entry is just $60,000 for the general public, while social entrepreneurs, students and volunteers can get in for only $45,000. This year’s event will have a raffle which will be benefiting a community in Salgar – bring 10 plastic soda bottles with you to the event for a chance to win one of two coaching sessions with an expert entrepreneur from within the industry of your choice, a gift provided by ImpactHUB. This year’s event will be a fantastic time to network within the sustainable improvement community, find out about several great things happening in the city, learn about new techniques and technologies, and make new friends.

For more information on the event or on Mi Barrio Verde, check out Reccaribe’s website:, or on FaceBook: @reccaribe, or by sending them an email:


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In a former life, Mike was a corporate project manager in Canadian telecom. For the last 6 years, he has been traveling around Latin America, teaching English and writing. Mike now lives with his partner in beautiful Barranquilla.