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%!
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