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Making a dramatic change

Partnerships are at the heart of what we do. Without our partners, we wouldn't be able to make a lasting difference to the lives of children affected by poverty, conflict and neglect in Colombia.

So we are delighted to tell you about our plan to take our partnership work to the next level – for the first time in CCC history we are planning a collaboration between our Colombian partners and another UK-based children’s rights organisation, Theatre for a Change.

Over the years, we’ve seen great examples of our partners using dance, drama and music as practical tools for defending children against threats to their safety and for protecting their rights in the long-term. By participating in the arts children like Alicia (whose story you can read in full here) can learn an enormous amount - and have loads of fun! So we have decided to bring six partners together in a new project. It will combine the most important shared elements of their work – artistic expression, children’s self-protection, youth leadership, community engagement and youth advocacy.

This is where Theatre for a Change come in – they have developed a unique approach to using theatre as a tool to help children change their communities. It has already proved effective in Africa and South Asia, and they have asked us to be the first organisation to apply it in Latin America.

The problem

Across Colombia, children and young people face risks and injustices that lead to them feeling unprotected at home and insecure in their community. Last month the Ministry for Health revealed that 41% of children in Colombia have suffered physical, psychological or sexual abuse. Three quarters of these incidents occurred at home. Feelings of loneliness and fear can lead children to believe that armed groups and other exploitative adults offer physical and emotional security.

As well as facing the risk of recruitment by armed groups and criminal gangs, the children we work with are disproportionately impacted by poverty, a lack of access to state resources, and marginalization from political participation.

What if things could be different?

It is a tall order, but the Theatre for a Change approach has shown that it can make these changes.

Changing communities through theatre

Using the Theatre for a Change approach, we want to teach children and young people to write and perform interactive theatre productions, as a means of helping them to find their voice, tell their stories and discover shared experiences. Like dance, drama also helps children to develop a greater understanding of their body and its abilities, to express difficult emotions, and to learn to work as part of a team.

Over the course of our yearlong project, 180 children will give a series of public performances in their home communities. These will all shine a light on a particular risk that they feel is threatening their rights. This risk will be chosen by the children at the start of the project but, given the contexts they live in, it could be sexual or domestic violence, gang recruitment, child labour, or poor quality healthcare and education.

As well as teaching children life skills that will help them protect themselves from harm in the future, the performances also aim to drive practical and positive changes in the children’s communities. Local adults (parents, family members, teachers, councillors, law enforcement agents) will be invited to attend the performances. Some of these will be people who the children would never normally meet, let alone talk to about their lives. At each performance, the children will first act out the play themselves. Then they will repeat it, asking adult audience members to replace certain characters, obliging them to step into the children’s shoes. The adults will be able to experiment with different ways of confronting the challenges that their characters face and find a better ending for the story.

Through this approach, children gain a voice and people with the power to protect them find out what it is like to face the children’s everyday threats and struggles. The power holders can then commit to becoming part of the solution.

The evidence shows that this project has the potential to make lasting changes in six of Colombia’s most marginalized communities. We need your support to raise the money required to start the project. Please donate what you can to help us get this life-changing work underway.

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