Leo is a child living in Bogotá’s ‘tolerance zone’ for sex work.
He was in danger of being groomed and sold for sex.
“Growing up I spent most of my time on the streets, where I saw people take drugs. My uncle is one of those people. He told me about the places around here where people sell their bodies to buy drugs. I really miss my uncle – when I was little he would take me to the park and we would have fun together. Now, when I see him, I ask him to come home but he’s getting worse and worse. At school, I met someone from the project. At first I didn’t want to talk to them, but in the end I opened up all about my life, and I told them that I didn’t want to end up like my uncle. I have realised that from bad influences and mistakes I had made in my life I was heading down the wrong path, like my uncle did when he was young. Since working with the project, I have realised that my life is valuable and I must fight for it and commit to achieving my goals.”
It’s estimated that over 35,000 children are involved in commercial sexual exploitation in Colombia but many more cases go unreported.
Children are particularly at risk in Bogotá’s sex work ‘tolerance zone’. The police rarely enter this neighbourhood, making it a focus for criminal gangs. Drugs and gang violence are everywhere.
Children see people all around selling their bodies for sex – often members of their own family. So, for many children, selling your body can come to seem normal. Schools near the zone have become prime targets. Adults wait outside the school gates and force children to recruit their classmates into being used for sex.
All this makes children and young people extremely vulnerable to sexual exploitation and other forms of abuse.
Because of this, Children Change Colombia is working right at the centre of the tolerance zone. We provide specialist care for children at high risk, like Leo.
Today, thanks to Children Change Colombia, Leo is safe from sexual exploitation.
But many children are still at risk.
You can help protect a child living in poverty in Bogotá’s sex work ‘tolerance zone’ from being groomed and sold for sex.
£7.50 will provide a month of counselling and care for a high-risk child at our specialist children’s centre. They will learn to protect themselves from the risks that surround them.
*This is a real story. Only the name has been changed for child protection reasons.