It has been a couple of days since we last blogged, so there is a bit to catch up on. We are now in Cali – a steamy city in the South West of Colombia which is the capital of salsa. But before we go into that, let us tell you what happened on Thursday, our last day in Bogotá.
The Accordion lady and the sleepy boy
Our final day in the city was spent visiting two very different projects. The Fundación Colombo-Britanica is a nursery that works with very young children aged 0-5 from deprived areas. The project is headed up by Teresa – a dynamo of a woman who never seems to stop. She explained to us that the project is a lifeline for these children, many of whom arrive at the project very malnourished. She then went charging off to supervise fixing a hole in the roof, sort out a donation of food, shepherd a group of children into their music lesson, and speak to one of the mothers. All this on top of managing the books and running the whole organisation. What an amazing woman!
Next we took part in the children’s music lesson, which was taught by a blind woman with an accordion. She sat on a chair in the centre of the room while the children gathered round at her feet, singing and clapping. Some were too enchanted by the music even to do this, and just sat there open mouthed.
Lunch time was a surprisingly calm affair. We saw one little boy with his his whole head plonked in his plate of food, and wondered whether he was so hungry that he had decided to forgo the use of a spoon. Then we realised that he was actually fast asleep! It was only then that we noticed lots of the children were dropping off. Teresa told us they have their nap after lunch and many of them start early, falling asleep as they eat. So we left them to it. Such a simple project, making such a great difference to these children’s lives.
It’s a family affair
Our next visit was to the Albergue Infantil Mama Yolanda – an organisation which helps children who live and work on the streets. This was a big contrast to the little project we had just been in. They have a residential program for 50 boys, plus two drop-in centres providing day care, advice and family support to 260 kids. Finally they have a program for children leaving care homes which is currently working with 65 families to ensure that children can re-adapt to family life when they return to their families, and that their families will look after them.
The children we met in the residential home were much older, all boys, more scarred by life, and with a sadness in them. They showed us around in a very friendly and courteous way, explaining their way of life there. One of the lads who showed us round had a necklace with ‘M’ and ‘P’ on it, which he said stood for ‘Mama and Papa’. We didn’t ask him where they are now, but you could tell he missed them.
The team then told us all about the work for children leaving permanent care, which is an incredibly well-thought through social programme to improve family relations, understanding and respect. It is extremely important work, ensuring that when children leave care, their families will provide the love and support they need. The work that the Albergue is doing will help young people like the ones we met to return safely home.
Finally, after all this, we took a delayed evening flight to Cali, through dramatic tropical storms, landing at about 8.30 pm local time.
Tomorrow we will write again about what happened on Friday in Cali, so come back soon!
Hannah and Emily