Some stories rattle around in my head longer than others. Some stories touch your heart immediately but they take time to express. I have a few more of those beautiful meaningful experiences from my time travelling in Colombia late last year. I spent close to a week travelling in Colombia with World Vision Canada in September 2014. The experience was life changing and motivating and moving and so very big.
I have already told many of the stories of the Colombian children, the workers and the places we visited, but in the last few weeks I have been travelling back to Colombia in my mind. Asomiflor still needs to be expressed so others will know exactly what an ADP (area development program) looks like at the start of World Vision’s powerful work. One young woman who worked with World Vision Colombia still haunts me in a good way. Her story is beautiful, powerful and sad and so much like the history of Colombia.
So, I guess I am trying to tell you to stay tuned there will be more to read and learn about World Vision Canada. There are more stories coming. But today as I prepare for another very different trip, I am thinking about the time I spent travelling in Colombia. I wanted to take a moment to share five things I learned from travelling all over Colombia with World Vision Canada to see what child poverty looks like firsthand.
Five Things I Learned Travelling in Colombia with World Vision Canada:
1. EDUCATION IS POWERFUL: The Children in Colombia are beautiful and strong and resilient and smart and they will make you remember how important the gift of education is. In a country where not everyone has access to education and some children climb over one hour, up a treacherous mountain to the very top just to get to school each day and then they repeat the journey back down hill each afternoon, I remembered that education is one of the greatest gifts any child ever gets.
2. PEOPLE have all the power in the world to fix things: When you believe in something like making the world a better place for children, and you focus your mind, body and heart on that one overarching principal you can make it happen. Johan and Wilson in Bucaramanga were the most amazing examples of this in action. When you dedicate your entire life to making change, change happens in places like Colombia. Advocacy is a way of life for the people working in the Bucaramanga office of World Vision Colombia. Even against seemingly insurmountable odds, change happens in Bucaramanga and that change means children and families have support and a child living in abject poverty finishes school and goes on to be a community leader, or a teacher, or a social worker. People have all the power in the world to fix things.
3. Team Work: Never doubt that a small group of committed citizens can change things…you know the saying from Margaret Mead? Bucaramanga. Period. Say it aloud. It is a fun little word. Bucaramanga. What is the one thing stronger than the individual person? – a committed group of people working towards a common purpose. In the couple of days I spent just in Bucaramanga, I met about 25 people working in the Bucaramanga office of World Vision Colombia. Most of the grown up employees and volunteers there were at one time sponsored children. In fact many were sponsored by Canadians. Many of those same sponsored children went on to work for World Vision, and then also went on to sponsor a child locally themselves. How do you change a community from the inside out? You start with a child and a family and you nurture that inside a community of caring and together that community can move mountains.
4. The Power of Play and Sports and Recreation is So Much Greater Than We Realize:
What does dance, crafting, singing, and soccer have to do with peace-keeping and changing the future course of an entire country? Everything. We talk a lot about bringing back play and such notions in Canada and The United States and even in highly developed areas of Europe. But how much thought do we give to the notion that play is a doorway in to a child’s world and it is also a steady course to building systemic change for entire nations? What do I mean by that? Well, take the group called the Peace Keepers in Colombia. Peace Keepers started in 1996. Peace Keepers is a national movement of youth advocates that battles gang activity, crime and drug culture from the front line. It is a movement that says bring me your 6,7,8 and 9 years olds and we will help build them a community centre and teach them dance and crafts and maybe soccer. And while we are doing that, we build self esteem and courage. We nurture advocates and identify mentors within our groups of children and while we dance and craft and play soccer we mentor tiny school aged children who are very young. We talk about history and we discuss what drugs and guns do, what bullying does, and we create a tiny motivated army of advocates who are young. We discuss children’s rights and empower children to use their voice and sometimes we do that while dancing and making bracelets after school. (After school is the time children here are most vulnerable to being recruited by gangs. In some spaces that are rural and impoverished that we visited it is common for drug dealers to give ten year olds heroin for free in order to mentor them in as tiny gang members.) And then we take our powerful youth group to a national conference and they build a powerful chorus. Starting here with crafts and play and soccer and dance, the Peace Keepers have built a strong national movement that sends official statements to the government and to FARQ telling them children have a right to a childhood and a right not to be recruited as soldiers and weapons in any war or guerrilla activity.
5: Giving Matters: Giving is one of the most important things anyone can do regardless of your income, your personal situation or amount. If you can give, then you should give, because giving has impact and it is the right thing to do. Gift your time or your money or both. Gift your voice, if that is what your strength is. When you give to any charitable organization working to make the world a better place, then you share in the rewards for years to come.
The World Vision Gift Catalogue remains a gifting option all year. Child sponsorship is impactful all year round too.
I believe we can change the world together. How do you give back?
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This is also my Travel Tuesday link. Every Tuesday I feature travel posts and then I add this perpetual link so that others can add their favourite travel posts to it as well. Happy travels.