My experience interning at Children Change Colombia

Laura Volunteeer

“I started my fundraising internship at Children Change Colombia in August 2016. During the year the internship lasted, I learned valuable skills and had amazing experiences. My main duties were related to fundraising, helping to organise events like the Children Change Colombia Fiesta and the annual Thames Walk in Richmond Park.

What I most loved about my time at CCC was seeing how all the team in the UK and Colombia work together to achieve the same goals, it was amazing to see their passion and commitment. I felt very grateful for the love they put in every single thing they do to make changes in thousands of children’s lives in my country.

Thank you CCC for bringing hope back to our children and young people, and to support them to be a powerful engine for the change!”

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Diario Colombiano de nuestro Director de Proyectos en Colombia

Nuestro Director de Proyectos, Camilo, nos cuenta como algunos jóvenes de nuestros proyectos participaban en manifestaciones históricas en dos regiones donde nosotros trabajamos.

fundescodes fb

La región pacifica colombiana ha sido históricamente excluida y segregada. Desde la época de la colonia se establecieron las estructuras sociales que discriminaban a las etnias afros e indígenas como inferiores y sujetos de explotación económica, su cultura se veía como inferior y sus prácticas religiosa y rituales condenadas. Con la llegada de la modernidad estas comunidades siguieron excluidas, sin el reconocimiento de sus particularidades y explotadas, aisladas, sin vías de acceso apropiadas, acceso a agua potable, servicio de salud de calidad y una buena educación. En 1991 la nueva constitución reconoció que Colombia es una nación diversa, pluriétnica y multicultural. Además, movimientos sociales continuaron con su lucha que en este marco jurídico les permitiera el reconocimiento de sus territorios ancestrales y de sus derechos. Aunque se aumentó la inversión en la región, el conflicto armado y la disputa territorial por la minería ilegal, cultivos ilícitos y rutas del narcotráfico generaron desplazamientos, homicidios y el deterioro del tejido social en la región.

El pasado mes de mayo las ciudades de Buenaventura y Quibdó, las mayores ciudades de la región pacifica colombiana realizaron un paro, en donde cerca de 100 mil personas salieron a las calles en Chocó y cerca de 100 mil en el Puerto. Cesaron sus actividades económicas, educativas y cotidianas para exigirle con marchas y actividades culturales, su inconformidad frente al gobierno nacional que no ha cumplido con los compromisos con los que innumerables veces se ha comprometido para solucionar los graves problemas que aquejan a estos territorios.

Durante los 22 días de paro en Buenaventura, se logró que más de 60 organizaciones sociales se unieran para construir una agenda, en donde se le exija al estado colombiano construir junto con ellos un modelo de desarrollo inclusivo, con respeto por las tradiciones, por el medio ambiente, que promueva la autonomía regional, así como un modelo económico construido desde la solidaridad, que permita el ejercicio efectivo de los derechos de la población del puerto. Esto resulta significativo puesto que la violencia ha deteriorado la capacidad organizativa de la gente, su capacidad para generar acuerdos y confiar en sus líderes. Este paro logro unidad, generar acuerdos sobre las necesidades comunes, y coordinar acciones para que la gente fuese escuchada. Los acuerdos establecidos con el gobierno colombiano incluyen terminar con prontitud el acueducto y garantizar el acceso al agua potable a toda la población, mejorar la atención en salud, ampliar el hospital, aumentar el número de camas, construir un centro deportivo, mejorar parques, mejorar la calidad de la educación.

Nuestro Aliado Fundescodes es una de las 60 organizaciones que lideraron el paro, participó con entusiasmo y responsabilidad, realizando reuniones con líderes comunales, involucrando a niños y jóvenes para que opinaran y dieran a conocer sus necesidades y propuestas de cambio. Niños y jóvenes fueron escuchados por funcionarios públicos y demostraron su compromiso con su comunidad. Fundescodes también promovió la manifestación pacífica, invitando a la gente a no responder a las incitaciones de la fuerza pública y de actores que buscaron desestabilizar el paro por medio de saqueos y el uso de la fuerza durante la protesta. Al final del paro, la organización se siente fortalecida y con esperanzas para que este proceso siga transformando la realidad del puerto.

En relación con el paro en el departamento del Chocó se dio como respuesta a los incumplimientos de los acuerdos realizados por el gobierno nacional producto del paro realizado en el año 2016, a esto se suman los incumplimientos de los acuerdos de los paros de 1994, 2000 y 2009. Durante los 18 días de paro el comité promotor logro generar un nuevo acuerdo con el gobierno nacional en donde se comprometieron a terminar las carreteras que comunican a Quibdó con la ciudad de Medellín y la ciudad de Pereira, entregar un nuevo hospital en la capital del departamento y 4 nuevos hospitales para la región. Los promotores del paro aseguran que si los incumplimientos continúan reanudaran el paro de manera indefinida, están siendo escuchados, se han organizado y esperan de manera pacífica lograr que se garanticen sus derechos.

Nuestro aliado Circulo de Estudios se unió al paro, mujeres, niños, niñas y jóvenes realizaron muestras culturales de danza y música, apoyaron las marchas y participaron de discusiones comunitarias con el fin de apoyar la movilización social.
En este contexto la niñez y la juventud de nuestros proyectos se unen a las voces de sus comunidades que están luchando por que sus derechos sean garantizados y puedan romper los ciclos de la pobreza y la exclusión que los han afectado históricamente, es muy posible que el gobierno colombiano siga incumpliendo con los compromisos establecidos, pero la gente está organizada y dispuesta a transformar sus realidades.

Nosotros seguimos apoyando a nuestros aliados que acompañan con dedicación y compromisos a los jóvenes para que su voz sea escuchada y sus iniciativas para mejorar sus comunidades sean tenidas en cuenta. ¡Si no te gusta tu realidad, porque no cambiarla!

 

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Colombia diary

Our Project Officer, Camilo, writes about young people’s participation in historic demonstrations in two of the cities we work in.

fundescodes fb

Throughout history, Colombia’s Pacific region has been excluded and segregated. Spanish colonial rule established social structures that discriminated against the region’s afro-descendent and indigenous inhabitants, classing them as inferior and subjecting them to economic exploitation. Their culture was regarded with disapproval and their religious practices were forbidden. Despite the passing of time, these communities continued to be marginalised and exploited and their unique culture disregarded. They continued to be cut off from the rest of the country as a result of poor quality transport routes, and their population lacked access to clean water, appropriate healthcare and quality education.
Laws have been passed to address this neglect. In 1991, a new Colombian constitution formally recognised the nation’s diversity, celebrating its multi-ethnic and multi-cultural nature. In addition, after much struggle, social movements succeeded in ensuring the ancestral territorial rights of indigenous and afro-descendent populations were legally recognised. Although these laws have led to greater investment in the region, the population remain severely neglected. The Pacific has been an epicentre of Colombia’s armed conflict. Decades of civil conflict and territorial disputes by armed groups running illegal mines and cultivating and trafficking drugs have hit the region hard, leading to high levels of forced displacement and homicides. This has fractured traditional social structures and threated the life and livelihoods of millions of Colombians who live in the region.
In May this year, the populations of the two largest cities in the Pacific region, Buenaventura and Quibdó, went on strike to demand change. Everyday life was put on hold – economic activity stopped and schools closed – and over 100,000 people took to the streets in each city to march and hold symbolic cultural celebrations. Their protests were directed at the national government’s failure to fulfil a series of promises made over the years to solve the serious problems affecting the region.
The strike in Buenaventura lasted 22 days, during which 60 social organisations united to coordinate their demands to the state. This process culminated with the organisations requesting support from the state to begin a process of inclusive social and economic development in the city. Central to their demands was a need for the development to be respectful of cultural traditions and the environment, to promote autonomy of the Pacific region and protect the rights of all members of the population. Developing this plan was an achievement in itself – decades of violence and fear in Buenaventura have weakened the population’s ability and confidence to mobilise. The strike brought people together, it created opportunities for discussion and agreements about needs people had in common, and created spaces for people to speak out and be listened to. Government support was secured on a number of topics – speeding up the process of providing clean drinking water to all parts of the city; improving healthcare provision including expanding the size of the main hospital; building a public sports centre; improving parks; improving the quality of education.
Our partner Fundescodes was one of the 60 organisations that led the strike. They participated enthusiastically and responsibly, setting up meetings with community leaders and public officials where they gave children and young people the chance to share their opinions, needs and ideas for change. These children were able to prove their commitment to making their communities safer and stronger. Fundescodes also worked hard to promote the peaceful nature of the strikes – they called for participants to resist responding violently to the police presence at protests or to get involved with those aiming to destabilise the strikes with violence and looting. Now that the strike is over, Fundescodes team and young people feel strengthened by the experience and are hopeful that through peaceful, democratic actions they will be able to continue transforming their city.
In Quibdó, the strike focussed on holding the government to account for failing to act on agreements made in response to 4 strikes in the past 25 years. During 18 days of strike action, the organising committee succeeded in reaching a new agreement in which the government committed to completing work to build roads linking Quibdó to two major cities, Medellín and Pereria, in Colombia’s interior; and building a new hospital in Quibdó and 4 more in the surrounding region. The strike organisers pledged that if the government again failed to fulfil their promises, they would call another, indefinite strike to continue their peaceful campaign to demand guaranteed protection of their rights.
Our partner Circulo de Estudios joined the strike in Quibdó – children, young people and women organised traditional dance and music presentations to celebrate their Afro-Colombian culture, as well as joining marches and participating in community forums.
In this context, children and young people from our partners’ projects are adding their opinions and experiences to crucial debates, helping their communities to fight for the protection of their rights and to break the cycle of poverty and exclusion that has affected them for generations. It’s still possible that the national government’s latest promises do not come to fruition, but the strikes have served to mobilise the population of this marginalised region and shown them that they have the capacity to transform their reality. We at Children Change Colombia will continue supporting our partners in this region, and across Colombia, to help children and young people have their voices heard and their initiatives for improving their communities taken into account. Because – if you don’t like your environment, why not change it?!

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International Youth Day – Part 3, Yvonne’s story

Image 3- Yvonne's story

As a part of International Youth Day we are sharing the stories of some of the youth leaders we’re proud to be working with. This year’s theme is ’Youth Building Peace’. Involving young people in transforming their communities into safer, fairer, more peaceful places is central to the work of all of our partners. As Colombia emerges from decades of conflict, and embarks on the process of  rebuilding itself as a peaceful country, young people have an important role to play in ensuring this peace is sustainable.

This trilogy of stories demonstrates how our partner, Si Mujer, is helping young people to contribute to building peace in Colombia. We support Si Mujer to train young people to know and demand the protection of their sexual and reproductive rights and to fight for gender equality. The young women featured here explain how they are now using what they have learnt about their rights to educate others, and to take action to help reduce sexual and gender-based violence and discrimination. The recent peace agreement between the Colombian government and the FARC guerrillas received international recognition for having an unprecedented focus on protecting the rights of women and girls and LGBTI* Colombians. Si Mujer’s youth leaders are making important contributions to help make these promises a reality.

(*lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex)

“My name is Yvonne Gutierrez, I’m 19 years old, I’m from the beautiful city of Cali in the wonderful country of Colombia.

A year and eight months ago I found out about this marvellous organisation that works to defend the rights of young women and men. I first heard about it through an activity that their Child and Youth Friendly Healthcare Service ran in the school I was in at the time.

They invited me to take part in their training, and I’m so grateful to them for it. I don’t regret accepting the invitation one bit. The process they took me though helped me discover what I want to study, work and fight for. It’s amazing really, because before this I didn’t even know that there were such things as sexual and reproductive rights, or that things that happen around me in my home and community can directly affect me, or that I shouldn’t judge a woman for having an abortion because it is her right to do it. I’ve definitely come to love everything that Si Mujer stands for. I especially admire the youth steering committee they have here.

I’m still amazed when I remember that after just four days with Si Mujer, my life started to change. Before that, my life didn’t have much meaning but I learned to feel proud of myself, my relationship with my father went from being a constant fight to him starting to tell me he was proud of me – he’d never said that before. I’ve learnt how to say ‘I love you’ to my family with confidence, and I can teach my little sister about the wonderful rights I know we have and how to make sure nobody violates them.

I think that Si Mujer is like a bicycle – if you get on and pedal you go forward, but if you don’t then you always stay in the same spot. Thanks to Si Mujer I’ve advanced and I can say loudly and proudly, “I have a right to…!”

I’m really good at reasoning now, I have a plan for what I want to achieve in my life, and thanks to the training that Si Mujer has given me I can pay tribute to the name of ‘Children Change Colombia’ and use what I’ve learnt to transform lives. I’ve had the chance to get to know all the work Si Mujer does, and I have never met such compassionate people as the women who work there. The organisation is a university for life, I’ve not only learnt about social issues but all sorts of skills and knowledge that will serve me in other parts of my life, be it in my studies or work in the future.

Si Mujer has opened doors for me. They’ve given me the chance to do what few people manage – to love my work, and work for what I love. I’m infinitely grateful to all the team there, because they’ve helped me take steps forward towards being a better person, to keep dreaming and keep changing Colombia.”

 

 

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International Youth Day – Part 2, Sandra’s story

Image 2 - Sandra's story

As a part of International Youth Day we are sharing the stories of some of the youth leaders we’re proud to be working with. This year’s theme is ’Youth Building Peace’. Involving young people in transforming their communities into safer, fairer, more peaceful places is central to the work of all of our partners. As Colombia emerges from decades of conflict, and embarks on the process of  rebuilding itself as a peaceful country, young people have an important role to play in ensuring this peace is sustainable.

This trilogy of stories demonstrates how our partner, Si Mujer, is helping young people to contribute to building peace in Colombia. We support Si Mujer to train young people to know and demand the protection of their sexual and reproductive rights and to fight for gender equality. The young women featured here explain how they are now using what they have learnt about their rights to educate others, and to take action to help reduce sexual and gender-based violence and discrimination. The recent peace agreement between the Colombian government and the FARC guerrillas received international recognition for having an unprecedented focus on protecting the rights of women and girls and LGBTI* Colombians. Si Mujer’s youth leaders are making important contributions to help make these promises a reality.

(*lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex)

“On the 11th of June 2016 I joined Si Mujer’s project and since then my life has completely changed for the better. Before then I didn’t know much about sexual and reproductive rights and I had no idea about the sacrifices other people had made in the past so we could enjoy these rights.

By joining Si Mujer, I have found what I have always been looking for. At first I wasn’t sure to what kind of role I would play in the organisation, but I am so happy now and pleased that I made the decision to participate in the training sessions. In every session I learn more about my sexual and reproductive rights abortion rights, how to access support when someone has been raped or contracted a sexually transmitted disease and much more.

Without a doubt, my life has made a complete U-turn. Si Mujer has supported me in so many ways and has encouraged me to grow as a person. Before I joined the project I was one of those people who used to speak for the sake of it, I hadn’t had any sex education and I didn’t really know what I was talking about when it came to sexual and reproductive rights. I wasn’t familiar with the current laws in Colombia surrounding abortion and because of this lack of knowledge I found it difficult to have an informed point of view on these issues, as well as many more concerning sexual and reproductive rights.

Si Mujer has changed all this for me and I now know the correct terminology when talking about these issues. My training has also taught me about women’s rights and that we have the right to decide on what happens to our own bodies. The project has helped me to gain confidence and improve my public speaking skills, and now I have a strong theoretical understanding of topics surrounding sexuality. With all this knowledge, I have changed so much for the better.

All the things I have learnt have had a positive influence on my everyday life and now I understand how to make the best decisions for me and my body. Now I can help others, share what I have learnt, and guide them as best I can so that they can make informed decisions about their bodies. All of the training I receive from Si Mujer is also helping me get experience for my future career, so that I can begin that chapter of my life as prepared as possible.

I am so grateful to Si Mujer for helping me in many ways – to grow as a person, to become a better person and to develop and improve my knowledge on these issues, and above all be happy.”

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International Youth Day – Part 1, Maria’s story

Image 1 - Maria's story

As a part of International Youth Day we are sharing the stories of some of the youth leaders we’re proud to be working with. This year’s theme is ’Youth Building Peace’. Involving young people in transforming their communities into safer, fairer, more peaceful places is central to the work of all of our partners. As Colombia emerges from decades of conflict, and embarks on the process of rebuilding itself as a peaceful country, young people have an important role to play in ensuring this peace is sustainable.

This trilogy of stories demonstrates how our partner, Si Mujer, is helping young people to contribute to building peace in Colombia. We support Si Mujer to train young people to know and demand the protection of their sexual and reproductive rights and to fight for gender equality. The young women featured here explain how they are now using what they have learnt about their rights to educate others, and to take action to help reduce sexual and gender-based violence and discrimination. The recent peace agreement between the Colombian government and the FARC guerrillas received international recognition for having an unprecedented focus on protecting the rights of women and girls and LGBTI* Colombians. Si Mujer’s youth leaders are making important contributions to help make these promises a reality.

(*lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex)

“My name is Maria, I am 17 years old and I’ve been part of Si Mujer since before I was born. My mother was a victim of sexual violence and sought help from the organisation – she fell pregnant with me as a result of the attack, and Si Mujer have provided me with psychological support since I was a little girl. During one of these session, they invited me to join their training programme and I decided to do for it.

When I started the training process I didn’t know anything about the subject of sexual and reproductive rights, I had very mistaken opinions about abortion and other issues around the subject. That said, when they talked about sexual violence, I know a bit about it, but it was very difficult for me to speak about it given what had happened to my mum. I took part in further training, after the initial phases, and I learnt more and became a stronger person. We started a Youth Steering Committee – we have a say in everything Si Mujer does. Being part of the Committee helped me realise that the subject of sexual violence didn’t have to make me feel bad or weak, on the contrary, it could make me stronger. So I started giving talks in my school and that led me to set up a sex education project, because the school wasn’t providing it. It was a great process, thanks to the support I received from the teachers and the headmaster who approved the idea right away. I’ve shared what I learnt from Si Mujer with students in my school, and I’ve referred lots of girls to Si Mujer’s healthcare service and invited them to join the training programme.

In terms of my family life, the process I’ve been through with Si Mujer has helped a lot. Thanks to Si Mujer, my mum and I have learnt to talk about what happened to her. It used to be difficult but now she’s setting an example of how to make a success of your life despite the troubles of the past. We can use our experience to help many many other women who have experienced the same things she did, so that they don’t get consumed by their experience and can move forward and become stronger than ever before. I would say that the support I’ve received from Si Mujer helps me every single day. I’ve used what they’ve taught me to resolve problems in my wider family – I’ve helped my grandmother understand a lot of these difficult issues because they were taboo topics for her. Today she and all my family are proud that I’m part of Si Mujer, because they know that we’re helping improve lots of people’s lives. They’ve seen me give talks in our community about sexual and reproductive rights – people come up to me with questions now!

What I like most about being part of Si Mujer, which is possible thanks to CCC, is that every day I learn new things which I can use to help new people who don’t know about their rights and who are at risk of these rights being violated. Thank you to everyone who supports Si Mujer’s work!”

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Niños y niñas de Buenaventura exigen sus derechos en un foro juvenil

Camilo, nuestro nuevo Director de Proyectos, comparte sus impresiones acompañando una experiencia de participación infantil de nuestro aliado FUNDESCODES.

“La ciudad de Buenaventura, es el puerto más grande de Colombia, cerca del 60% de las mercancías que entran y salen del país, pasan por allí. Millones de dólares en ganancias se producen cada año, este contexto económico parecería prometedor para sus más de 400 mil habitantes, en su gran mayoría afrocolombianos.  Para mi es difícil ver como la comunidad está excluida de este proceso de desarrollo; su población vive en su gran mayoría en la pobreza, no tienen un empleo formal, ni una educación, ni servicios de salud de calidad. Además de sufrir de la violencia relacionada con las pandillas, el narcotráfico y una voraz corrupción gubernamental.

Este contexto de violencia y exclusión, afecta principalmente a la niñez y a la juventud, que no tiene muchas posibilidades para desarrollar sus capacidades y potencial, relegándolos a una visión de futuro limitada.

El pasado mes de noviembre cerca de 200 niños, niñas y adolescentes, lideraron un foro para expresar sus puntos de vista frente a las situaciones que los afectan. Los niños y las niñas respondieron a tres preguntas: ¿Qué problemas tenemos? ¿Qué proponemos para solucionarlos? ¿Qué apoyo necesitamos de los adultos para llevar nuestras propuestas acabo? Las principales necesidades expuestas por los niños y las niñas fueron: contar con suficientes parques y canchas seguras para poder jugar. También pidieron programas artísticos y culturales en donde pudieran desarrollar sus habilidades e intereses, tales como la danza, la música, el teatro y los deportes. Otro factor importante, es poder contar con rutas seguras para ir a sus colegios, muchos corren riesgos de ser atacados sexualmente, o de ser acosados por miembros de pandillas, incluso ser atropellados, por no tener espacio suficiente para transitar.

FDCD forum pic

Los niños y las niñas propusieron soluciones que ya viene implementando – ayudar a construir y mejorar los parques, organizarse para conformar grupos artísticos y deportivos, identificar rutas seguras. Este proyecto ha permitido que los líderes comunitarios, familias y escuelas apoyen sus propuestas, se han mejorado desde el trabajo comunitario, parques y canchas de futbol, se conformó un grupo de teatro y un grupo de danza, además de desarrollar políticas de seguridad infantil en sus escuelas, también se recuperó un centro cultural abandonado, para poder hacer reuniones y presentaciones artísticas. Falta el apoyo del gobierno local, esperan ser escuchados y que sus opiniones sean tenidas en cuenta para que las soluciones que plantean sean sostenibles. Nosotros los seguiremos apoyando porque creemos en ellos!”

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