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Light up a child’s life, long after the Christmas candles have burnt out

We want to tell you about 18 year old Elena and her 4 year old daughter. Their story is a difficult one, but it’s starting to get better.

This Christmas, you have the chance to give Elena’s story a happy ending.

Elena has lived and worked on the streets of Colombia’s capital, Bogotá, on and off for years. A year ago, when she first came to the support centre run by our partner ACJ, she was losing hope. But she desperately wanted to give her daughter a better childhood than she’d had.

Elena is from Mártires, one of the poorest parts of Bogotá. The police rarely enter the area, making it a focus for criminal gangs. Families often live in one tiny room, in dark, damp obuildings. They must find a few pounds for rent every day or face immediate eviction. Many desperate mothers resort to sex work to keep a roof over their children’s heads and are often forced to bring their clients to the same room where their children will later eat and sleep. The pressures of living in these extreme conditions threaten to tear families apart.

“Things at home were bad when I was little – we didn’t have any money and my mum was often violent towards me and my brothers. I tried to spend as little time as possible at home, but the only place I had to go was the street.”

When children feel unsafe and unloved at home, the streets should never be their only escape. Children Change Colombia provides safe places for children where they can play, learn, and talk about their fears with caring adults. When Elena was in need of protection, there was no such safe place.

“When I was 14 a man attacked me. He got me pregnant. After my daughter was born I found it impossible to afford all the things she needed. I was too young to get a proper job and the only thing I could think to do was prostitution*. I’d seen lots of women doing it. It’s been 2 years since I started and I hate it. It reminds me of the abuse I suffered, but I still get up every day and do it for my little girl’s sake.”

Elena had her childhood stolen from her, but it’s not too late for her to get her life back on track. Through our project with ACJ, Elena’s receiving regular counselling and free childcare, meaning that she’s been able to take ACJ’s work skills training so that she can break free from sex work.

Elena’s story shows just how crucial our work with Colombia’s most at risk young people really is. Whenever possible, we intervene early to protect children from the dangers that surround them. And for young people who have suffered abuse or neglect, we provide therapy and training to help them get their lives back on track.

But all this isn’t easy. Our partner ACJ offers a lifeline for young women like Elena, but their services are in real danger of shutting down next year if we are not able to give them the funds they need.

That’s where you come in. We urgently need your help this Christmas to raise the money needed to keep ACJ’s services running.

Please, donate today.

Thank you so much for your support!

*As Elena was a minor at the time, this was actually commercial sexual exploitation of children.

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