Our new Project Officer, Camilo, shares his impressions of our partner Fundescodes’ annual youth forum in Buenaventura.
“Buenaventura is Colombia’s largest port – around 60% of the goods that enter and leave Colombia pass through there. Each year, this generates millions of pounds in profits, which you might think would benefit the city’s 400,000 mostly Afro-Colombian inhabitants. But most locals are excluded from their city’s development. The majority live in poverty and suffer from constant violence by gangs and drug traffickers, and extreme corruption within local government.
Children and young people are worst affected.
At our partner Fundescodes’ annual youth forum in November, 200 boys and girls discussed the risks they face and proposed solutions, requesting the support of the adults present.
The overriding need they identified was for safe parks and sports pitches. They also asked for cultural programmes, such as dance, music, theatre and sport, where they could develop their skills and interests. Another important issue for them was the danger they face when walking to and from school. They explained that they risk sexual attacks or recruitment by gangs, as well as hazardous traffic on the crowded streets.
Now, many of the solutions the children suggested are underway! With Fundescodes support, the children are working with adults to improve local parks, they have refurbished an abandoned cultural centre and set up a theatre and dance group, and they are identifying safe routes to their schools.
Community leaders, families and teachers also attended the forum, which inspired them to commit to supporting the young people in their plans. Support from local government is still lacking, but the children hold out hope that their efforts will be recognised by those with the power to make their solutions sustainable. We at Children Change Colombia are committed to helping them because we too believe they can do it!”