As my cab inched up the mountains that surround Bogota, Colombia, I looked down over a city that is home to about 9 million people. I was with Carol Mondragon, GlobalGiving’s Ambassador in Colombia, and Alexandra Tamara, the founder of Pintando Caminos. We passed yoga studios and nice restaurants as we headed up the mountains to one of the poorest areas of Bogota. During the hour-long journey, Alexandra told me about the history of the area, which is marred by gangs, violence, and the after effects of Colombia’s past political unrest. She told me the unlikely story of her transformation from a high-powered lawyer who never wanted children, to head of a non-profit living and working with close to 250 children in Ciudad Bolivar.
When we finally reached the Pintando Caminos building, a stream of children ran out and their eyes lit up and when they saw Alexandra. They immediately began hugging and kissing us. These were kids who were happy to be there! The excitement soon died down and the kids went back to their work. They were busy doing their homework, pouring over books and math problems. The homework support is just one of the programs that Pintando Caminos runs for the neighborhood community.
Soon we saw another part of their work – the lunch program. When homework hours ended, the children left and the real work began. A woman in the building’s small kitchen began cooking up a storm – huge vats of rice, salad, meat, and potatoes. Over 200 children came in 15 minute shifts over the next hour and a half for a plate of hot lunch.
Alexandra explained that Pintando Caminos is different. Their philosophy is based on love, but that doesn’t mean the children don’t have to work, too. While many organizations work in Ciudad Bolivar handing out food, organizing sports teams, and setting up arts activities, Pintando Caminos is teaching real skills and putting importance on education as a way to a better life – not just giving a hand out.
I sat with the kids during lunch as they wolfed down their food, played with their friends, and joked with the staff. This was a happy place with a committed and passionate staff. I left grateful for the opportunity to get an insight into the amazing work this organization is doing and proud that GlobalGiving had such a great partner organization in Bogota.
If you’d like to support Pintando Caminos again, today (Wed, June 13, 2012) is a great day to do it. For every $1 to give, GlobalGiving will kick in another 30%!
During the first trimester of the year, Pintando Caminos has been working hard on the Homework Help project. We decided to improve the project because, when we tested the students at the beginning of the year, we realized that many students are not reading and writing at the level that coincides with their grade level. Since this affects all aspects of youths’ academic performance, we have started a project with the mission that every child will write, read, and comprehend in 2012. We are developing specific activities around writing and learning skills, and with many we are working on reinforcing basic math skills.
So far in this project we have two groups – one in the morning with 45 kids from various grades, and the other in afternoon with about 80 kids regularly attending. During the first have of the workshop we do activities and exercises designed to focus on literacy and math, and for the second half we work with the students on their own assignments.
With this strategy what we are trying to do is provide them with one of the most basic skill sets for breaking their cycle of poverty. With basic education skills, if students can write, read, and comprehend, they can access professional education and come closer to accomplishing their goals. Once again, we’d like to remind you that this is only possible with the support of heartfelt sponsors such as yourself.
We are also continuing with the nutrition program, in which approximately 150 kids are participating, and starting in April we are going to begin supplementing the lunches with animal protein. Thanks to specific donation, we will be able to prepare meals with beef and chicken, foods with the families of our kids normally can’t afford (food that even Pintando Caminos has been unable to afford – until now).
On February 25th some students from the University of Michigan came and ran an activity with the kids. Some of them got to go play soccer, and others worked on arts and crafts in the foundation building.
The soccer program is temporarily suspended while we search for more funding. We are using this time to concentrate all our efforts on the reading and writing project, and getting the kids formed academically.
Thank you all for supporting us in this journey. If you have any questions feel free to contact Zach at zbinsfeld AT gmail.com, or Alex at pintandocaminos AT yahoo.com
Pintando Caminos is getting ready for this Christmas. We are going to have a celebration on December 24 in the foundation with all of the kids, where we will give them gifts that have been donated this year. We have also had the opportunity to take the kids on two field trips in recent weeks - one to a play area in a mall, and another to a water park. These are all great opportunities for kids, who would not otherwise have the ability to enjoy these activities. This time of year is creates a jovial and light atmosphere in the foundation with the kids. Every one is excited.
The kids are also involved in making gift boxes (you can see them in the pictures on this project report), which we distribute to donors here and those who help with our Christmas activities. It's great to see the kids enjoying themselves with artistic activities and just having fun now that the school year is out for the rest of December.
In terms of the winter giving challenge with Global Giving, so far we have been successful in raising over $1200 dollars, which already allows us to begin planning for better nutrition and academic programming next year! This is great news, but it is still a long way from what we need to offer them a full range of resources, or to ensure a place on Global Giving’s website. In order to meet these goals, we need to raise 4,000 dollars from at least 50 donors by December 31st.
Please consider talking to family and friends about our project, why you feel connected to us, and why you think it's important to give in your own words. Only you know what to say.
Thanks again, and enjoy the holidays.
With love and gratitude,
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