Giving children and young people a second chance
This week Colombia celebrates Children’s Day. At Children Change Colombia, we believe that every child deserves a safe and happy childhood, and we place great emphasis on giving children who have suffered through conflict and violence a second chance. With that in mind, we are choosing today to highlight one of our ongoing projects.
Since 2012, we have worked with our partner organisation, Tiempo de Juego (TDJ), tackling various neglected issues faced by children in Colombia. Through our partnership with TDJ, we support young people in deprived neighbourhoods in Bogotá to access life opportunities away from gangs. As of 2015, the focus of our joint project has been on working with young people living in residential care centres as a result of committing crimes and, or, gang affiliation. As well as working to prevent the recruitment of young people into armed groups, the project also tackles sexual and gender-based violence against children and young people.
“With our partner, Tiempo de Juego, we have adapted the project to successfully attend the needs of the children, of young people and the staff at the residential care centres during this time of global uncertainty and distress”.
Juan Sebastián Londoño B., Project Director
Over 4,000 children and young people in Colombia are in the juvenile justice system; with several thousand more currently placed in protection facilities. Colombian Social Services estimates that over 15,000 young people (aged 14 to 17) have gone through the system in the last 5 years. TDJ found that growing up in neighbourhoods with a presence of drugs and crime, and being exposed to domestic or gender-based violence, were experiences shared by many of the young people in the centres. Indeed, the children and young people recruited into armed groups, or involved in criminal activities are undoubtedly also victims of the violence Colombia has witnessed. Yet they remain largely neglected and stigmatised in society, and the privately run young offender facilities rarely offer the life skills or psychosocial support needed to help young people rebuild their lives. As a result, young people come out of the facilities having not been appropriately equipped with the fundamental socio-emotional skills, confidence, knowledge or support networks required to build a safe, crime and drug-free future.
What does the project do?
In 2020 the project was carried out in four residential recovery centres (Semillas de Amor, Junior Masculino, Redentor and Nuevamente); two specialised Attention Centres and two residential centres focused on young people with histories of psychoactive substance abuse. Through the project, children and young people were able to heal traumas and gain important life skills to assist them in making positive, informed decisions about their futures.
Through both online and face-to-face activities, the project has helped 218 girls and boys and 85 adults (teachers, parents, carers) in two target communities. TDJ believes it is the children and young people involved that best know their needs, worries, and the challenges they face and thus centres their voices in the activities carried out. These activities are designed so that the centres’ caregivers can assist young people in being leaders of their own learning and transformation, whilst simultaneously stressing the importance of collective participation.
What has the project achieved?
Our joint project has created a space for children and young people to positively transform their lives through the promotion of youth leadership and the development of children and young people's understanding of their own rights. Through activities such as cascade workshops, in which trained young people like Ana* led, and replicated their learning with their peers to prepare them for graduation, 92.5% of the young people involved strengthened their psychosocial skills. This has helped them to successfully navigate the process of leaving their care centre and access support according to their needs and interests.
Ana*, 16, is a young leader in the Semillas de Amor Foundation
“I'm planning to go to Tiempo de Juego [after school] to learn new things, because I want to be a teacher and work in foundations with children involved with drugs, with teenagers like me and my classmates here. The cascade workshops helped me realise that I want to be a teacher because I think I’m good at that”
With your help, we can continue to support Tiempo de Juego's project and assist young people like Ana* living in residential care centres, as well as their families and caregivers, to transform their futures and break the cycle of violence.