As a part of our planning for the Rethinking Poverty Experiences from Colombia forum, COTA decided to look back at the testimonies received from children and families in COTA’s projects over the last 20 years. The purpose is to understand their perceptions and experience of poverty. This process was led by Lina, our current intern. In this blog, she shares her personal impressions\ experience of looking into COTA’s history and researching what matters to these families.
“Colombian people are always looking for the positive side of every situation they are in. When I was searching for evidence on how children and families COTA has worked with perceive poverty over the last 20 years, it was a big surprise to find out that even without much money, all they want is love.”
I was very pleased when I was asked to give my analysis of the last 20 years of COTA’s work from the point of view of the children and families involved in COTA’s projects. I wasn’t sure what to expect, or even if anyone at COTA knew what the result of such an experiment could be.
To my surprise, the whole process was a wonderful experience that enabled me to connect with these families through their testimonies and to understand their perspective on such sensitive topics, especially when most of these families live in deprived conditions. At the beginning I had a false idea of the likely result of the research; because I thought ‘if people are poor, they will talk a lot about money and the lack of material possessions’.
I must admit how wrong I was. For Colombian children and families the concept of ‘poverty’ is a lot more than just money, they preferred to look the whole circumstances around their lives. One of the testimonies that helped me understand this was from 13 year old Jose who said “My dad always used to lose patience with me; he would just tell me off and leave me alone, we never spent time together. But now, he is more patient, he tells me what I should do without losing his temper. Now we do things together, he comes to my football matches…’ José, 13 years old
“José” (13 años): “…mi papá me tiene paciencia, me dice las cosas que debo hacer, está más pendiente de mi…cuando la embarro me dice, me regaña pero me comprende y me tiene paciencia…antes mi papá me dejaba solo, pero ahora hacemos cosas juntos…me acompaña a los partidos de futbol del barrio…”
This is an example of how complex their situation is. Sending them money is not enough to solve the situation of poverty. This made me value even more how these projects help, as they provide support to children and their families along the way.
The testimonies helped me learn that for these children and their families feeling part of a community, where they are important as individuals and are treated with respect or receiving a warm welcoming smile is more important than a new pair of shoes. For them, having a person they trust to talk about their issues or having the opportunity to go to school and learn to achieve new things is more relevant than material wealth. Of course, the lack of financial stability is one of their major challenges but they prefer to concentrate in exploring different options to progress and to look for new opportunities to belong proud members of their communities.
I was so emotionally connected with their testimonies that I feel if I ever met them, I would feel as if I already know them and what they want… I came away with the realisation that their needs are not that different from mine because, to some extent, all of us are looking for the same state of mind and happiness that keep us going to fight any adversity.
I know there is still a lot more to do, but this research has given me and I hope everyone who reads this a new powerful reason to be committed with this cause and to continue helping lives of all the vulnerable children and their families and to invite everyone to join us because it is rewarding to see the changes our work can do in the future of Colombia.
With this experience I learnt not to underestimate any single effort to contribute improving the quality life of so many people who need support, because in the long term it is these same people who are going to give a hand to the next generation, and so on. These kids and their families dream of having the opportunity to give back to their communities, in the same way they one day had the blessing of making a change in their lives.
After long hours reading all the testimonies, going up and down with my emotions, I finished my report with a very nice feeling, a huge smile and prouder than ever to be Colombian.