Behind the scenes: See how V Social turns ideas into impact

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To give you a better understanding about the work that we do at V Social, we want to introduce you to our project coordinators, Camilo and Ifigenia. Our project coordinators are responsible for transforming ambitious proposals into real outcomes in local communities. Camilo and Ifigenia agreed to sit down for a conversation and share their insights into their work, which presents several challenges but more than makes up for it with its rewards, especially when they see the way it can transform communities. 

Camilo Alvarado V Social


Camilo lives in Bogotá, Colombia, and is the coordinator of V Social's projects in South America. He brings to his role several years of experience in the field of human rights and working on local development projects in parts of Colombia and Latin America. Camilo joined V Social in August 2017.


Ifi in Australia



Ifigenia, who goes by Ifi, lives in Puerto Jimenez, Costa Rica. Inheriting a passion for the natural sciences from her mother, she dedicated herself to the study of tropical biology. Ifi combines her scientific knowledge with her belief in the power of education to help preserve tropical forests, and supports many women-led community projects in Central America. She has been part of V Social since August 2017.




How do you help communities? What are some things they often ask for help with?

Ifi: The women of Muycuché approached me for help with customer service. I couldSilvia y mama cocinando-1 sense their eagerness to perfect their skills. I became their "trial tourist," allowing them to practice interacting with me with grace and confidence. I helped them refine their skills, offering them an extra push when I thought it would help. It was a delight to witness how happy they were as they got comfortable with it. 

One area where we are often asked to help is with infrastructure. So, again with the project in Muycuché, I was able to support the women by providing water filters to ensure clean and accessible water for the community and visitors. Now, we’re looking into acquiring electric stoves as an alternative to open fires. Cooking over open fires can be unhealthy, especially for women who spend hours inhaling the smoke. Buying electric stoves is my current mission, as I know how important it is to improving their health.


More about Muycuché


"We faced the challenge of changing the negative perception people had about this place." - Camilo


Guided tour at Isla Maciel, Buenos AiresCamilo: Let me tell you about Isla Maciel, a community in Buenos Aires where we have addressed several important issues over the years. First, we faced the challenge of changing the negative perception people had about this place. We wanted tourism to be a transformative experience, not only for visitors, but also for the young people. 
Grafitti at Isla Maciel, Buenos Aires
Young people in Isla Maciel often face the risk of joining criminal activities or using drugs, and often the two go hand in hand. We developed a process for them to learn how to be guides, work at the community museum, help in generating new ideas, take care of administrative tasks, and even do simple things such as cleaning up. Because of this, the young people were too busy to get involved in criminal activity. They saw that the real benefits of tourism, both in terms of economics and in their personal development. And engaging young people in this way is no small feat.


More about Isla Maciel


What is a typical day like when you visit one of the communities?

Familia Acosta-1Ifi: When I stay in Muycuché, the experience is filled with warmth and connection from the moment I wake up. Lying in a hammock, surrounded by the other women, I can't help but admire their resilience. They get up at 3 am every morning, quite a bit earlier than normal for me, but I’m inspired by Ifi with one of the kids at Muycuche.their unwavering commitment. Together, we sweep the floors, tend to the animals, and share the cooking.

In the days I’ve spent with these remarkable women, I have always been welcomed like a member of the family. I can feel the depth of trust and genuine warmth they extend to me. In these precious moments, I feel a profound sense of belonging, and it touches me deeply.

What motivates you in your work with communities?

Ifi: That my time has an impact on their lives. That my knowledge, experiences, and dedication to my work allow people and their families to have access to a better life. It is easy to find motivation, not just because I’m helping people, but because it also makes my own spirit grow. I am motivated by feeling like part of a family. These women see me like a daughter. They welcome me into their homes and let me do things like one of their children would, and that makes me feel very loved and appreciated.


"That my time has an impact on their lives. That my knowledge, experiences, and dedication to my work allow people and their families to have access to a better life." - Ifi


Camilo: I am motivated by the fact that tourism serves a purpose. And that purpose extends to so many facets of life: generational change, human rights, female leadership, and environmental protection of a territory. Tourism can be a tool for solving problems. For me, when that happens, it’s exactly where I want to be.


Is there a moment which stands out for you where you saw how your work had had an impact on a community?

Camilo with JeicothCamilo: The Parchese a los Populares project is a good example. These kids live in the most touristy neighborhood of Bogotá, la Candelaria, but had never benefited from tourism. Some of them used to steal from tourists, because they saw that as the only way to get something out of all the people visiting their neighborhood. We said to them, "Hey, why don't you take advantage of all this tourism which is passing right in front of you?" We asked them about their interests and discovered that they all loved hip-hop and its culture, whether in the form of singing, dancing, graffiti, or DJing.



"This is a great example of how tourism was able to change the paradigm, from seeing young people as delinquents to being generators of social change." - Camilo


We designed a tour with them, where they were the ones who decided where to go. This included places that were previously off-limits to tourists because they were often robbed there. WhatsApp Image 2021-02-09 at 11-31-48 AM-1-1Because the kids were from the neighborhood, they could see the benefits of transforming it, and effecting change so that it was now a place where tourists could go.

This is a great example of how tourism was able to change the paradigm, from seeing young people as delinquents to being generators of social change. These days, many young people want to join the project because they see the opportunities it brings, such as interacting with tourists, learning languages, and getting paid for work they are proud of. 


More about Parchese a los Populares


What is your role in the development of the community organizations?

Camilo talking to Parchese a los Populares, with TravolutionCamilo: My role as a facilitator is always to establish a relationship of trust. I seek to understand the possibilities without judging. As a mediator, I create channels of dialogue and try to understand communities and their situations. For example, with the young people in Parchese de los Populares, I tried to understand why they were stealing from tourists. When a young person has no educational or employment opportunities, stealing is one of the only options for survival. My role was to understand how to show them there was another way to interact with tourists, and I was able to contribute ideas of how they could attract people. We did this by providing an opportunity by generating tourism processes that allowed them to keep singing, doing graffiti, and even creating their own clothing brand. Cambiamos la torta, as we say here. We changed the cake. 

Is there a lesson you have learned through your work with communities?

Ifi: One important lesson I learned is perseverance. Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic and the absence of travelers, the groups we work with remained committed to their projects. Their resilience and belief that things would work out were evident. It was inspiring to see their clean houses, well-kept gardens, and renovated terraces. I particularly appreciated their humility. Many of the women had husbands struggling with alcoholism, a common issue in rural areas with limited activities. However, they accepted their situations and focused on building their own futures. When they shared these personal stories, it created a sense of trust between us. I learned the value of being non-judgmental, recognizing that our life experiences differ greatly. Instead of labeling behaviors as “good” or “bad,” I embraced the opportunity to listen and understand. These lessons of perseverance, honesty, and non-judgmental acceptance have deeply influenced me and continue to shape my perspective.

"These lessons of perseverance, honesty, and non-judgmental acceptance have deeply influenced me and continue to shape my perspective." - Ifi


What would you say to a traveler who has never visited a community-based tourism project?

Camilo: I would tell them to think about it not as an experience where you are going to be attended to like a guest, but more like going to visit a friend of a friend, someone you don't know but who is going to treat you like family. It takes both sides to make a tourism project work; it is a dialogue. The more you are willing to engage in this dialogue, the more interesting the experience will be. Travel is learning, and this is genuine learning. Nothing in community-based tourism is a lie. They don't work with lies. They work with what is there, and that is local knowledge, local food, and local culture. These are the most valuable things because they can't be bought with money, they can only be shared.

"These things can't be bought with money, they can only be shared." - Camilo


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