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New Beginnings in Colombia: Martina’s Story


March 6, 2023 • 2 min read

"Entrepreneurship is not easy", Martina Santiago says. But with support from GOAL’s Barrio Resiliente (Resilient Neighbourhood) project, funded by USAID, Martina’s business is now thriving in Colombia.

At just 14 years old, Martina was forced to flee her home town of Saravena when armed conflict broke out. Martina is among the millions of people internally displaced in Colombia due to the conflict.

While conflict disrupted her childhood she has many fond memories growing up in Saravena where she developed a love for arts and craft. “When I was studying, I used to sell my drawings to my classmates,” Martina says with a laugh.

What began as a hobby soon became a passion for Martina.

“One day I heard about polystyrene carving. The course I studied brought me so much joy that it became my source of work. Little by little I grasped the opportunity to form a workshop and here I am,” she says.

Martina now runs her own business, ‘Manualidades y decoraciones Santy’ (Santy’s Crafts and Decorations) in Bucaramanga. Her determination is not only driven by her passion for arts and crafts, but by her love for her family and community.

Martina with her grandson Milan at her art workshop

Inspiring Others

From humble beginnings Martina has recently expanded the range of products offered by her business. It’s a discipline that requires constant training. “I’m not the most gifted at carving polystyrene, but I can improve. I want to learn new techniques,” she says.

To broaden her market Martina now also produces party decorations and artwork in cold porcelain and ceramics. While she embraces her new skillset, her greatest desire is to inspire others with her talent. “My dream is to expand my workshop and teach other people what others have taught me.”

Grasping the Opportunity

As Martina looks to the future with optimism, she’s grateful for support she’s received. “GOAL has given me a lot of guidance, they have given us classes on accounting, how to run the business, and thanks to that, I’m more aware of expenses and the importance of saving,” she says.

In addition to business training and mentorship Martina has also received equipment and materials to help her business flourish. “They gave me stationery, acrylic paints, base paints, foamy, silicone, brushes. To USAID and GOAL I say thank you very much for coming to this neighborhood, for thinking of us and our community. It’s great to have this opportunity. I need to make the most of it.”