MMI in Colombia
MMI first travelled to Colombia in 2004, under the leadership of Willie and Janice Hunter and at the invitation of Antonio and Ruth Cortes and the Iglesia Cruzada. Project teams in Colombia aim to provide basic primary care and dental care in the Amazon Region, as well as specialized vision services. Vision care projects are focused in urban areas, and include opportunities for local medical personnel to receive training. These large projects typically see a high volume of patients looking for all types of services: glasses, cataract surgery.... Through MMI and our project partners, the 'blind' can now see.
Juan Alan Muñoz was born in 1972 to a Colombian father and an Irish mother, who were called to be missionaries in the Amazon jungle of Colombia. Juan Alan studied Economics at university in Northern Ireland and Finance in Bogotá. He has been working in the area of business administration in the health sector of Colombia since 1996. He began serving with MMI, as National Director of MMI Colombia, in 2004 and as CEO of Clinica Leticia in 2013. Father of three children, Juan David, Andres Felipe, and Isabella, who also help on MMI Projects. Juan Alan spends his time between Bogotá and Leticia, always with a cup of coffee in hand. Juan Alan and his wife, Leonor work closely with MMI in planning the projects in the Amazon Region and other areas of Colombia.
Juan Alan Muñoz is developing MMI Colombia with strong community leaders. Eye care projects led by Richard and Barbara Skinner and Juan Alan Muñoz have served over 65,000 patients since 2005 in Buenaventura, Barranquilla, Cartagena, Leticia, Ciénaga and Riohacha.
Barrancas, La Guajira
Barrancas is a town and municipality of the Colombian Department of La Guajira. The municipality of Barrancas is located to the left margin of the Ranchería River in a valley formed between the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountains and the Serranía del Perijá.
Barrancas commercializes in small scale agricultural products such as coffee, plantain, cotton, maize and yuca, but the main economic activity in the municipality is the exploitation of coal at Cerrejón coal mine. The Cerrejón coal mine is one of the largest open pit coal mine in the world.
40 m (131 ft)
The climate present in the region is predominantly hot and dry with no mountainous climate variations, maintaining an average temperature throughout the year of 28°C.
Bocachica is located in the Cartagena Province of Colombia. The Province of Cartagena occupies much of the Caribbean coast of Colombia. The territory of the province was amorphous in shape, with borders that followed an undulating line edged by the foothills of the Andes mountains to the south, consisting of the Abibe, San Lucas, Ayapel and San Jerónimo mountains, running west along the Serrania del Darien and east along the Magdalena River.
Tropical wet and dry climate.
Riohacha, which translates into English as "River of the Axe" or "Axeshore", is a city in the Riohacha Municipality in the northern Caribbean Region of Colombia. It is located by the mouth of the Ranchería River and the Caribbean sea, capital city of the La Guajira Department. Founded by conquistador Nikolaus Federmann in 1535, Riohacha was named after a local legend "The legend of the Axe". Owing to the powerful rain shadow of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, the area is mostly desertic. During colonial times, Riohacha was a very important port due to the discovery of vast numbers of pearls. In the second half of the 20th Century, the city became one of Colombia's maritime commercial ports.
* Project Description: On these projects, surgeries take place at a local hospital in Riohacha, and the optical clinics are set up at a local school. The Integrated Health component of the projects is for patients to learn about eye care, hygiene, preventing the spread of germs, dental health, and information about the clinic stations. These projects are a comprehensive vision care team of Ophthalmologists, Optometrists, Opticians, Nurses, Technicians, and Support Team Members.
5 m (16 ft)
On average, the temperatures are always high. There is little rainfall.
Photo Courtesy of ©Elizabeth Opalenik
Travelling on a Project
Entry & Exit Requirements
Travelers are required to have a valid passport for the duration of their stay. Travel visa is not required.
• Americans: For more information see the US State Department website:
• Canadians: You will be asked to fill out a form for a TOURIST visa at the Bogotá airport. Canadians must pay a Colombia Reciprocity Fee - Effective December 1st, 2014, Colombia began charging a reciprocity fee to citizens of Canada arriving at an airport in Colombia.
The fee of approximately $88 CAD (or 160.000 Colombian pesos) per person is valid for a single entry into the country, and is payable by international credit card or debit card. If made in cash, the payment must be in Colombian pesos. A dedicated counter will be available to Canadian citizens who must pay the reciprocity fee before proceeding to immigration control. The fee does not apply to Canadian citizens who:
• are under the age of 14 or over the age of 79
• hold a valid visa to enter Colombia
Passengers who are unable to pay the fee will not be allowed into Colombia.
Travelers to Putumayo, Meta, Gorgona (Cauca), Tayrona National Park (Magdalena), and Caquetá must produce proof of yellow fever vaccination, as it will be required by airlines for flights to these departments. Please check the following website for the most current entry/exit requirements.
• International: Please contact MMI office or Raptim Humanitarian Travel for visa requirement if needed.
Please email ALL CREDENTIALS upon application, as these must go to the Project Director in the country to be translated and then taken to the Ministry of Health to get temporary licenses prior to your arrival.
• For everyone, we need:
- Colour Scan / Photocopy of Passport (photo page)
- Colour photo for your name badge (any good photo, we can adjust size)
- Travel Itinerary
- Supply Lists
• Medical Professionals, we also need your:
- Current License (through time of project)
- Diploma (Techs, Nursing, Dental, MD and Board Certifications)
- Curriculum Vitae or Resume (this also will help the Project Director know your skills & experience to assign you a task on the project, especially for 1st time participants)
• Health Care Students: Letter of Good Standing from your school (including year of study and graduation date).
• All MINORS travelling with only one parent, or without their parents, will need a letter from BOTH parents stating that it is OK for the child to travel with one parent or an appointed guardian. The letter should be signed and notarized. MMI needs a copy of this letter, and the parent or guardian should carry the orignial letter while travelling.
Once you have been accepted on the project, you can contact our designated travel agency to arrange your travel and coordinate your arrival the team.
Raptim Humanitarian Travel: www.raptim.org
• US Applicants: Travel costs are arranged directly with the travel agent and are in addition to the Participant Project Donation.
Contact our “Serve Team 2”: ServeTeam2.firstname.lastname@example.org
Direct Toll Free: 1-844-882-3233 and ask for the agents by name or extension.
Lead Agents – Claudia (ext. 13302), or Michael (ext. 15004).
• Canadian Applicants: Donations to MMI for travel are in addition to the Participant Project Donation.
Contact our “We Partner” team: email@example.com
905-465-4300 or Toll Free: 1-844-442-6978 & ask for the agents by name.
Lead Agents - Anca (ext. 32327), or Connie (ext. 31771).
• International Applicants: Travel arrangement can be procured locally or following the Canadian instructions above.
• Airport: Riohacha, Colombia (Almirante Padilla Airport - RCH) via El Dorado International Airport Bogotá (BOG) on one continuous ticket.
We strongly recommend that you consult a travel clinic, as they are aware of outbreaks and can suggest preventative immunizations. All routine immunizations should be up-to-date. Please check the following website for the most current information.
• Americans: https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/traveler/none/colombia
• Canadians: http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/tmp-pmv/countries-pays/country-pays-eng.php?id=352
Accommodations and Meals
MMI will arrange local accommodations for the team.
• Laundry Service: usually available for additional fee
• AC: dependent on location
• Phone Service: check with your cell phone provider, roaming is very expensive.
• Wifi/Internet: dependent on location
• Voltage: 110V.
• Meals: MMI will provide meals for the team. Dietary restrictions can be indicated on your application and we will do our best to accommodate your needs. Be sure to bring your own re-usable water bottle with a wide mouth for refilling. Purified water is supplied. If you would like to bring snacks to have throughout the day, please bring items such as peanut butter, granola bars, trail mix or pretzels and crackers in sealable containers (like Ziploc bags).
• Language: Spanish (official)
- Roman Catholic: 90%
- Other: 10%
• Government: Presidential Republic
The money in Colombia is called the Colombian Peso (COP). MMI staff will help you exchange money. All major credit cards are accepted in Colombia. Visa and MasterCard are the most commonly accepted. You must bring US dollars in good condition - torn, stamped or old bills will not be exchanged. Also, $1 bills are not useful in Colombia; they are exchanged for less than other bills. $100.00 bills that are older than 2006 or start with the series CB are not accepted.
Photo Courtesy of ©Elizabeth Opalenik
MMI Amazon & Clinica Leticia
MMI has formed an alliance with this clinic in Leticia. Here, a moderate level of health care are provided, such as surgeries and deliveries. In the Amazon region, many patients are transported weekly to Colombia’s capital, Bogotá, due to lack of advanced medical machines and specialists. Clinica Leticia is working to upgrade its facilities to reduce the number of air transports.
In some villages, there are individuals with very basic medical training, but resources and medicine are often extremely limited. Because of this, the villagers commonly wait until they are extremely sick before getting medical attention. Another factor that affects the villagers is distance; health centres are often far from their village and transportation can be unaffordable.
Colombia is one of the most ethnically, linguistically, and ecologically biodiverse countries in the world. The urban centres are mostly located in the highlands of the Andes mountains, and the Colombian territory also encompasses Amazon rainforest, tropical grassland and both Caribbean and Pacific coastlines. Indigenous populations such as the Muisca, Quimbaya, and Tairona have mixed with Spanish, African, and Middle Eastern immigrants to create a culture as unique as its landscape. Colombia is the third most populous Latin American country with 47 million persons. It thereby possesses an incredibly rich cultural heritage.
Health care reforms in the 1980s have made great strides in Colombia: it is estimated that 96% of the population has health care coverage. However, high quality health care is only available to the emerging middle and upper classes in urban centres. Those that are economically disadvantaged frequently suffer from less attention, allowing health disparities to continue. Life expectancy and infant mortality measures are slowly increasing, and are among the best in Latin America. A shortage of qualified healthcare workers allows infectious diseases to continue to spread, however chronic diseases such as hypertension and diabetes are increasing in prevalence.
Colombia has a strong education system, and most people are literate and finish secondary school. Interestingly, rural education is often of high quality due to a novel teaching method Escuela Nueva that places students at the centre of learning.
Northern South America, bordering the Caribbean Sea, between Panama and Venezuela, and bordering the North Pacific Ocean, between Ecuador and Panama.
4 00 N, 72 00 W
1.142 million km²
Brazil, Ecuador, Panama, Peru, Venezuela
12 nautical miles
Tropical along coast and eastern plains, cooler in highlands.
Amazon region is tropical, with average temperature of 27°C (80.6°F)
Flat coastal lowlands, central highlands, high Andean Mountains, eastern lowland plains (Llanos)
Pacific Ocean - 0 m
Pico Cristobal Colon - 5,775 m