This time we have decided to make a special mention to our “Preparation for Life” program with the adolescents at the Saint Patrick’s Home that involves a transitional period which constitutes the bridge between being in the Foundation and returning to society. Since its opening in 2003, the Saint Patrick’s centre has been home to 675 adolescents, offering them the skills they need to sure up their long-term plans and preparing them psychologically so that they may use their independence to become active and constructive members of society.
Many of the boys have come from the Emergency Centres or other institutions as they have been fully rehabilitated but have no family support. Saint Patrick's centre has a warm and happy atmosphere. It feels like a real “home” and the boys come across as “brothers”. Here there is a major emphasis on educating the boys and setting them on a path that will help them to become fully independent. Some are going to secondary school, others are attending technical college and four of the young men are attending University. The idea is to provide the boys with career advice and employment opportunities as real options for their future.
We are certain that this programme contributes directly to achieving the UN’s Millennium Development Goals in the context of the fight against poverty, since we firmly believe that skills development and employment opportunities are are one of the most effective solutions. The young people who have graduated from the Foundation, deserve a fair chance of getting a prosper life. We will do our utmost to further this initiative, with hard work and your generous donations.
Former street child, Alexander * (19) is attending University in Bogota where he is studying Agricultural Science. He arrived at St Patrick’s two and a half years ago. He was found abandoned at age 5 and spent many years living in a number of institutions and on the streets. He is doing very well at college and is very bright and ambitious. Jonathan used to go out on Street Patrols where he helped giving out bread and hot chocolate to the kids we visit. He loves to share moments with the people living on the streets he had met. It’s incredible to think that this young man belonged to the street community not that long ago. *His name has been changed for protecting his identity.
According to the United Nations, 65% of the population in Colombia is below the international poverty line. When Colombian families don’t have homes or a means of income, proper parenting becomes compromised. This can result in Colombian children not being adequately fed or supervised and education is often non-existent. It can also result in Colombian children being exposed to physical and sexual abuse, and violence.
We are pleased to start this year with the certainty of being working with the support of our Globalgiving donors who have placed their trust in our work. We appreciate the contributions you have given to help us in our duty of taking in children who live in a situation of high social and family risk, who need a home and deserve a chance to live in dignity.
Thanks to your generous contribution of USD$ 3.785 during 2013 we were able to successfully protect 2.382 girls and boys aged between 0-18 years, in a residential care (24 hours a day) and external care (after school) programs, with actions focused on the restoration of their rights. These children have received an adequate nutrition, attended school, were provided with books and uniforms, participated in cultural and leisure activities and received continued attention by the psychosocial team to encourage their overall development. In the same way, through our Street Patrols, we provided on site assistance and first aid when needed to 780 people, of all ages, living in extreme poverty or who did not have a home and also we offered familiar attention to 410 former street boys and girls and their families, who had completed the programs in Niños de los Andes.
In Colombia there are steel 80.290 boys, girls and teenagers under the state care, victims of neglect, malnutrition, physical abuse, child labor, sexual violence and consumption of psychoactive substances. Most of them have a family that is not able to take care of them or cannot guarantee their fundamental rights, for that reason we hope we can continue to work beside you on strengthening our Foundation, in order to be able to provide lots of those children with the means to reach their full development in an environment of love, understanding and happiness.
CHILDREN´S HOME “NUEVO AMANECER”
Sixty children and teenagers, mostly groups of siblings, who have had to be separated from their parents due to physical abuse, poverty or forced displacement, live in our home “Nuevo Amanecer”, a place where their rights protection is guaranteed. They have been exposed to abuse and neglect from their poverty stricken parents and have had little opportunity to access education. For this reason, the ICBF (Colombian Institute of Family Welfare) has taken them into a protection program in which their basic rights have been re established.
These children can live there until their parents can prove that they can take responsibility for their upbringing. This can take up to four years - depending on the circumstances. Parents are allowed to visit their children once a week during the time they are under protection. At the same time the team of “Nuevo Amanecer”, which includes a psychologist, a social worker, a nutritionist, an occupational therapist, a doctor, two trainers and a nurse; work hard to prepare every detail for them to be able to enjoy a holiday season full of love, games and gifts, as every child around the world dreams of. They know that they are able to receive these gifts thanks to the generous support of our donors.
Our emergency centres “Albachiara” and “Casacorazones”, located in the neighborhood Gustavo Restrepo in the south of Bogotá, never close their doors. The boys at these centres are referred by the local centre of ICBF or the children´s police unit and are admitted at any time of day and night. They do not get there by their own free will as they are often found consuming drugs, they have committed an offense or that they have been involved in the most dangerous situations. They are also aware that they must go through a process of diagnosis of their problems to subsequently begin recovery in the institution designated by the evaluation committee in charge of their case. The team of professionals working there are always willing to give them a warm welcome and make them feel the warmth of home.
The admission of 850 children and teenagers to this program throughout 2013 clearly indicates the serious situation of young people with regard to consumption of psychoactive substances and their engagement in illegal activities. It is not easy for them to know that they will be spending Christmas away from their families; however they seem to be happy to be under the care of the foundation´s team. There will be gifts, candles, Christmas dinner and lots of activities run by volunteers to celebrate the New Year.
We want to share with all of our donors of Global Giving the story of Laura Munoz, a woman and a mother who despite all her problems never gave up and became a life example for everyone today. We are pleased to see how her life inspires many women in the Foundation to keep working and to let them know that dreams really come true.
Due to the economic situation in which we were living, my mum mistreated me a lot, and it got worse when she got to know a guy who also abused me a lot and she said nothing to him. A few months later I left home not thinking I could end up in the"cartucho" (a bad place)… the door to hell…Once there, with the freezing cold of the night, hungry and soaked from crying, a little boy arrived, I think the same age as me, 7 years old is what he told me:"Smoke this and you'll be fine" he said. It felt good. The same kid took me to his "parche" (slang for his hood), and, there I got to know many 'friends'. that's when I got to know life on the streets. I learnt to fight, to steal, even to kill, because in the streets one has to defend oneself or die.
There in the streets is where I met my angel -‘Papa Jaime’ who always came to the "parche" to bring us food, or doctors to cure our injuries from "punches". I dont know how many times he saved my life and each time he offered for me to go to the foundation with him. In this "parche" I got to know John, my first man who in fact they killed right in front of me. I had to bury him alone not knowing yet that I was pregnant with one of the most important people in my life.
After his death, I gave in to my vice, without thinking of the danger to my baby.I lived dangerously, I saw thing nobody could even imagine. One day I decided to seek out papa Jaime and ask for help. I wanted out of that life for my baby.
Papa Jaime helped me to leave. I returned to my mum's house and that's where I had Leydi, my first daughter. The situation was very hard. The first month after giving birth I had to work in the outskirts of the city picking potatoes. I met the father of my other 2 children there and I thought this was my real opportunity to form a family, but, it didn't work out either, as always I had believed it would. But, I have no regrets because, today I have Brayan and Brenda, who are my greatest inspiration to keep going forward. Since that moment, with my childrens, I began to dream to have a house where we could have a quiet life. I asked God´s help and Papa Jaime appeared, he helped me with a popular housing project, with his help I had my house in August of 2011. This was a great start for us as a family and a moment I will never forget.
Today I have the support of the foundation. I work doing general services at one of the foundation homes based in Bogota. I am grateful for my life and thankful to God for setting me on a good path and for such good people, especially for papa jaime. My dream is to study Social Sciences and continue helping in the foundation to all the girls and boys that had through the same circumstances as me. To achieve that goal, for four years I have been finishing my school and I will graduate with God´s will the next year.
With nearly 30 years of working in the streets and within the most marginal neighborhoods in the city, we have come to learn of the severe lack of social developments that these people and families have been unable to overcome. Because of their extreme poverty and distressed conditions, these people have been deemed unworthy to fit within the social hierarchy.
Approximately 60,000 children and teenagers, who come from these marginal neighborhoods, have been assisted through our Foundation’s programs in the 6 different branches located in Bogota and Manizales, and in places where communities have required our help. It has been a challenge to help them overcome their nutritional, educational, and emotional distresses, but the results have been extremely positive and justify our intense efforts.
The most rewarding thing is that we have not been alone. Friends, volunteers, and donors from Colombia and elsewhere have contributed their time, experience, knowledge, and donations to help our team positively transform the lives of the children that join our Foundation.
With that in mind, we would like to share with our Globalgivers some of the experiences of our young alumni, volunteers and supporters. Here, they share their stories about the Foundation’s work. Not surprisingly, they all believe that love is what inspires them.
Serge Jori, a French nurse who volunteered for 3 months at one of our branches.
"I had the opportunity to get to know and work with the Foundation. It was a very fulfilling and enriching experience for me. The Foundation does an exceptional job. The children of the Andes are wonderful human beings for whom we need to fight with all our might. The Foundation’s team works diligently every day to bring Papa Jaime’s philosophies to life. They are dedicated and passionate for what they do, which really makes a positive impression for the kids that come to the Foundation. The kids are shown lots of love every day, which is fundamental in my opinion. Despite the difficulties and problems they face, I’ve always seen a lot of happiness and positive energy at the Foundation."
Claudia M., a girl rescued by our team who lived with us for 7 years.
"Dear Papa Jaime, may God always protect you and those around you. You get more satisfaction when you make a kid who is lacking of love smile than when you give something to someone who has everything but doesn't appreciate it.
Sandra Rojas, a 30-year-old who lived with us for 6 years.
"I was one of the most troublesome children the Foundation had. I thought being bad was being tough, and I cast aside all those who were succeeding, good and wanted to learn. I couldn’t believe that after everything I had done, all of the fights, swearing, and aggressive behavior, the Foundation didn't give up on me. They helped me find work, a job I’ve held for over 3 years. There is nothing better than receiving a paycheck that you’ve earned through hard work. I learned, lost track, and they helped me again. If it weren’t for the Foundation’s unconditional help and love, I would still be on the streets or maybe dead."
Pedro Lozano, a supporter of Plan Padrinos (Godparents’ Plan) for more than 7 years.
"I always wanted to do something for someone, but I didn’t know where to start or how to help. It all started with a seminar I attended through my company where Papa Jaime spoke. His speech was very moving and it touched me deeply. In that moment, his stories of the children reminded me of my daughter. Through his words, I found the answers to questions I had been asking myself for months: What should I do? Where do I start? Where do I go? What I’ve loved the most about Plan Padrino is when I receive letters from my “godson.” It really fills me with joy. He imagines himself as part of our family and says we’re his magical godparents. Getting his letters is wonderful not only because it shows his gratitude, but also because we’re helping someone in need. Allowing someone to feel wanted and loved, to create that bond, and know that I’m a part of something great, makes me feel at peace. I want to help as much as I can and the Foundation has really allowed me to do so.”
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