Camilo Arjona

Ashoka Fellow
Colombia,
Fellow Since 2014
Alas para la Gente

Citation

This profile was prepared when Camilo Arjona was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2014.
The New Idea
Camilo Arjona and Alas Para la Gente (Wings for the People) are using highly effective, wide-scale medical brigades to enter rural, isolated communities in Colombia and introduce an array of allies that can support the residents in their economic and social recovery and or development. By using healthcare, a topic that most everyone can get behind, as a point of entry, he brings allies ranging from the government to the country’s top media to private companies and foundations to the table to pitch in with their respective resources. The communities’ healthcare needs are met while the Alas partners, in turn, are exposed to both the needs and assets of these areas.

Camilo, combining his talents as a pilot and a publicist with his deep-seeded social commitment, began Alas after participating in small-scale medical brigades and seeing the extent of the problem of rural communities without access to healthcare or other public infrastructure. He started Alas to be a resource-aggregator to provide large-scale medical professionals and supplies to off-the-grid communities. As his strategy developed, he saw the brigades as a tool for introducing these communities, often formerly or currently governed by paramilitary forces, to the entities that can assist them in overcoming their situation. Brigades of 35 medical specialists and tons of medicine and other supplies are collected and transported to these remote areas, thanks to the support of Alas’s many allies and based on a plan developed by the communities themselves. Then, the volunteers, partner organizations, and the public at large “meet” the communities and learn about their culture, economic poverty, and/or cultural and environmental wealth through strong media partnerships. As a result, perceptions about the communities are changing – they are not only seen as forgotten or abandoned conflict zones, but become personalized and even valued. In turn, the communities (and their leadership, regardless of politics), are meeting partners that can help improve their quality of life.

What began as a way to identify the needs of rural communities excluded from healthcare, channel the appropriate resources their way, and ultimately permanently fill the gaps in the healthcare system is just the beginning of the change Camilo is instigating. First, he recognizes that his infrequent medical brigades are not enough to sustain communities until the government steps in, so he is working on setting up Telemedicine Kiosks in the communities to provide more continuous access to care. Not only has the Ministry of Health and Protection begun to use Alas as tool to non-contentiously arrive in these communities, but also to survey the possibilities of further post-conflict intervention that extend beyond healthcare. After each brigade, Camilo issues a report card to local and national governments that can then be used to understand the local social situation. Camilo’s reputation has already made Alas a partner in the government’s post-conflict recovery plan, and other allies are taking his model beyond Colombia to Central America.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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