Over the last year, we have been supporting our partner Fundescodes in Buenaventura to protect children from violence and rebuild protective and peaceful communities.
As part of the project, 100 children and young people aged 8-18 have designed and run a series of creative campaigns in their four neighbourhoods to promote peaceful coexistence among their neighbours. They managed to involve around 300 children and adults.
The campaigns included meetings to discuss children’s rights with the local authorities, a ‘Hug-athon’ in which the children went from door to door offering hugs and kind words to their neighbours, clean-up activities to reclaim playgrounds from disrepair and use by armed groups and drug dealers, setting up a community kitchen garden, film screenings and mini-theatre productions.
It typifies the community spirit that the children’s campaigns inspired.
The community garden was one of the project’s great successes. It typifies the community spirit that the children’s campaigns inspired. This is in direct contrast to the widespread mistrust and hostility that the children say permeates community relations.
The initiative was entirely the idea of the children and young people – they asked their neighbours to donate cuttings of plants that have a particular significance or use in Afro-Colombian culture, as well as disused tyres to use as planters. This gave them the opportunity to promote the gardening scheme and encourage conversation between the generations.
The next day, the children invited the community to join them in clearing the yard of the local community centre, painting the tyres and planting them up.
To end the day, the children had organised a ‘community cooking pot’ – community members brought ingredients for a large stew which they cooked outdoors and then shared amongst all the neighbours.
One of the boys involved in the activity told Fundescodes that he was amazed by the kindness he experienced that day from his neighbours – “They came out to offer us fizzy drinks when they saw we were thirsty!” he told a member of staff.
Community members say that they see maintaining the garden as a symbol of peace and community reconciliation.