Recently, our long-term UK supporters Peter and Clara visited our partner Tiempo de Juego to see the project in action , meet some of the participants and staff there and find out how their donations to Children Change Colombia have made a difference to the young people’s lives. They’ve written this blog post to share their experience and express their gratitude to everyone at the project for their very warm welcome!
Our visit to Tiempo de Juego was an incredible experience! We didn’t expect to find such a large and well-established project. Maybe typical stereotypes mislead us to expect some football pitches and a small area to support admin activities. On the contrary, we were very impressed with the organisation of everything and the fact that many of the children and young people are encouraged to take responsibility for supervising the different activities that Tiempo de Juego offers.
It was clear that the people in these positions of responsibility were very motivated. They took time to tell us the details of what they were doing and what the different activities were.
For us, this is the most compelling aspect of Tiempo de Juego’s work; each member, independently of their role (participant, monitor, youth leader, coordinator, project manager) have realised that through the project they can help to develop themselves and others. They also understand their importance as a role model for others at the project.
We met so many inspiring people there, but we were particularly impressed by Eduardo*. He shared his story with us and, seeing him now, you would never guess his background.** In addition to the incredible achievement of turning his life around despite the odds, the most impressive thing about him for us was his commitment to Tiempo de Juego and his continuous efforts to ensure that the privileges he’s been able to attain for himself are shared with other members of the project. At the moment, he is studying sport in university in Bogota thanks to a grant he won from Adidas. He talked to us about his efforts to develop a shorter programme at the university that other young people from his neighbourhood can access, in conjunction with the University principal and private organisations.
There’s a wonderful sense of team spirit at Tiempo de Juego. This is exemplified by the astonishing collective effort the staff and young people made to reclaim a warehouse and parking area which they are using for break-dance classes as well as the first ‘Art Fair’ last year involving all the community. We watched the video of the Fair and it was a real community celebration!
The recording studio and the artificial football pitch are other incredible achievements, although they involved a considerable external investment. We thought that the real achievement here is the way Tiempo de Juego administer and maintain them, as well as the project’s capability to ensure that the members benefit from these investments.
It’s very difficult to pick our favourite part of the visit. It was wonderful to see that everybody was very respectful and willing to show us their project, and particularly explain their personal involvement with it.
One part that we particularly enjoyed was having chance to talk with some of the children and young people during a break after their music workshop. Pilar and Andres, staff at Tiempo de Juego, facilitated our interaction with the youngsters and during this time they talked to us about their challenge to achieve what they dream. One of them wants to become a hairdresser, another wants to become a psychologist. Tiempo de Juego helps them get closer to realising their dream by providing them with advice and offering projects of different sizes that prepare them for future challenges.
We took a few lollipops that we managed to distribute during the break, everybody was very polite, even at this moment. Only one boy asked if he could take 2 more lollipops for his relatives, which initially caught our attention. Pilar and Andres explained that it’s common for children to save anything that they receive and take it home to share it with their families.
Another great moment was talking with Sebastian who manages the artificial football pitch. He told us about when he had the chance to go to Brazil for a football competition. He shared his experience from the putting in a proposal, to the competition process to the logistics associated with the trip. He told us it it was “an unimaginable experience”.
Just before we left we went to the bakery and one of the mums who works there offered to buy some food for us. We were impressed with the affordable prices given that this project intends to be self-sustaining.
We’d like to say to the team at Tiempo de Juego: “Please continue growing up and developing Tiempo de Juego through your continuous commitment. Each of you is a role model for younger generations and an example to follow for many others. Thank you for all your time with us!”
*Children’s names have been changed for child protection reasons.
** You can read more about Eduardo in his own words in our blog post “No longer afraid to dream”