We woke this morning to a Bogotá shrouded in thick mist which was rapidly turning into smog. This, coupled with hectic traffic, made us quite glad to be heading out of town again. Two new amigos – Pedro and Freddy from the Formemos Foundation – came to pick us up and we set off in their car to el campo – the countryside.
A long and windy drive through the mountains later (with much Spanish learning on the part of Emily), we arrived at the Formemos Foundation.
From humble beginnings…
Formemos is the most extraordinary organisation. The foundation began in 1992 with a small group of 23 children who were rescued from being forced into the illegal armed forces. Three years later Formemos was given a large farm outside Bogotá, where they now support 240 vulnerable, displaced and orphaned rural children.
In Colombia the people of the countryside (campesinos) often have fewer life chances, and a much lower quality of life than those who live in the city. Children are often unable to access education, healthcare, or even the basic necessities of life. As a result, people are migrating from the country to the towns in large numbers, where they are struggling to make a living.
Formemos aims to reverse this trend. They believe that the people of the countryside should be valued, encouraged and equipped to continue their essential work. Above all, children need the skills and knowledge to be successful in the countryside and earn a living.
Formemos works by providing academic and technical education for children from the countryside, in the countryside. They use the New School method, which means that all of the teaching and learning is relevant to the childrens’ situation. For example, children have practical, agricultural training, and training on income generation. They also learn in a collaborative way, by taking responsibility and group disscussions.
Seeds of the future
We were given a grand tour of the whole organisation by Patricio, a lovely lad of 17 who has a passion for all things of the countryside, especially coffee growing. We encountered (and smelt!) pigs, llamas, cows, rabbits, chickens. We saw coffee, yucca, flowers, a mini-rainforest garden – all of which are planted or maintained by the children. We marvelled at the water harvesting, methane gas power, recycling, bean drying and wormery. It was a perfect example of sustainable living in action.
The coffee song
As well as the farm, we looked in on the children in the classrooms where they were learning science, maths and music. A high point was hearing some children practising their Coffee Song, which they have prepared specially for a competition being run by a local coffee company. The song is all about coffee and it’s importance in the lives of the children, their families and community. Let’s hope the Formemos children win!
Rolos and Campesinos
So here we are, blogging, back in the sprawling metropolis of Bogotá, slightly sad to have said goodbye to Pedro and Freddy – the Rolos (Bogotá-born men) who love the Colombian countryside and can see the value in the children of el campo being given a better chance in life.
With the help of Formemos, they will be.
Hannah and Emily
PS: Please note that for child protection reasons we are not able to upload photos of the children taken on this trip until we have got full permission.