Last month our Field Officer in Bogota, Gina, visited COTA partner Renacer, to find out more about their work preventing the commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC). Here’s a snap shot of her trip:
Last month I visited the Renacer Foundation at their office in Cartagena, and their project that works with children and families who are at risk – or who are survivors of – commercial sexual exploitation. The project seeks to prevent this crime from happening within the community and in schools. The project is being developed in Fredonia (one of three “boroughs” that make up the beautiful touristic city of Cartagena), where the children and families participate in educational and life skills activities. They are also offered individual and family therapy.
The purpose of my visit was to review some of the project’s developments and meet the team members that I hadn’t already met. But what really interested me about my visit was meeting the children and young people – seeing how the activities work and finding out a bit more about what they have been learning and how they feel about the project.
The day I spent meeting the children was truly remarkable. I was welcomed with warmth and smiley loving children, and there was a vibrant and lively atmosphere in the room. To introduce ourselves we formed a circle and with a bit of singing, dancing and encouragement from the rest of the group each child and project-worker said their name. After that, the children and young people that wanted to share their experiences from the project talked about what they had learned so far. Some spoke of the rights and responsibilities that the lawyer had taught them about; others highlighted the importance of having learnt good table manners and personal care. But all of the children and young people agreed that the single most important thing that they had learned was how to react when they felt at risk.
This visit, and above all the contact I had with the children and young people has truly inspired me. Seeing the progress of the project and the positive impact that Renacer is having on the lives of these children verified my belief that what we are doing, as individuals and as an organisation, is really changing lives. Seeing the children happy and safe made me proud to be part of COTA and our partner’s work.
Despite the difficulties and problems that some children face, with a bit of support they have an amazing ability to remain positive and happy. Moments like the ones I spent with the children at Renacer remind us that many of our own problems are small in comparison to other things going on in this world. If these children can show love and happiness after what they have been through, then surely the rest of us can too…
The commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) in Colombia is a growing problem, with an estimated 35,000 children exploited every year. COTA is working with the Renacer foundation in Cartagena to raise awareness of CSEC and the action that can be taken to reduce the risks. Renacer is working directly with families as well as communities, schools, health services, the legal sector and local government. It is the largest CSEC prevention project ever run in Colombia, reaching thousands of at risk children.
To read more about Renacer’s work you can read our newsletter or refer back to one of our previous blogs in “Response to a British man being found guilty of CSEC in Colombia“.
Thanks for reading!