Globe, Latin America

Foreign support for Colombian children

Child Action Group, an organisation based in London, provides education for some of the most vulnerable children in Pereira, a little city in Colombia. Their social commitment aims to create a more democratic, balanced and fairer society for the future.

Ramón Alabau

It’s not easy being a child in Colombia. A study by the National Bureau of Statistics has revealed some chilling figures in the South American country.

Poverty, sexual abuse, child exploitation and child abuse, make up the reality of numerous children’s lives in a country surrounded by the Caribbean Sea.

The Constitution of Colombia includes several articles pertaining to the protection of children and adolescents. Article 44 of the Constitution states that children “will be protected against all forms of abandonment, physical and psychological violence, imprisonment, sale, sexual abuse, work or economic exploitation and dangerous work”, and claims that “life, physical integrity, health and social security, a balanced diet, their name and citizenship, and instruction and culture” are their fundamental human rights.

Despite this, nearly “1,137,000 children in Colombia live in poverty and 2 million children have no access to education”, according to a study published by UNICEF, not to mention other, albeit no less troubling, data.

A series of challenges has been created in order to deal with this situation, in order to minimise the critical circumstances that surround a sector of society which totals 37% of the population. Improved access to water, basic sanitation and education are key factors when it comes to creating a better future for these Colombians.

A number of organisations throughout the world are working towards this objective, including one based in England.

Child Action Group, for example, is a charity based in London that organises different projects to procure financial, physical and human resources, in order to fund a shelter for vulnerable children, located in the city of Pereira.

Founder, Nancy Elena Ocampo, says that this collaborative initiative arose following a trip to her native country, where she met a couple looking after street children. “They welcomed children who had suffered physical and sexual abuse, those who weren’t in education, nor the care of their parents. When I returned to London and everyone heard about my friends, we came up with the idea of building a bigger foster home to help these children.”

So, despite the distance, seven members of the organisation rallied in order to help the underprivileged children of Colombia.

The support and solidarity of the children have resulted in the construction of a much larger hospice. “We started to receive donations, from the land where we built the hospice, to some of the furniture.”

The children are offered shelter, care and food, but education “has been the main goal from the outset.”

Ocampo added that the situation for children in Colombia is very delicate, stating that “between 60-70% of children live in extreme poverty. They are uneducated, and after they are born, their parents have no further interest in them. They are forced into begging, prostitution, work and theft.”

The organisation currently cares for 70 infants and youths, but its founder reveals that every day more parents are coming to the centre to leave their children, because they don’t know how to look after them. “There’s still a lot to do, but we just don’t have the time or resources.”

That is why “we have started to spread the word about our work. We believe that the British society is responsible. There are lots of NGOs in the city helping children in Africa, Asia or Latin America. I’m confident that we will have the support of the English people.”

The Child Action Group believes in its project because “they are teaching so many children to work on the land, care for animals and even become hairdressers”, so that they can work for their futures.

On December the 13th, the organisation is hosting an event in the Colombian Embassy in London to promote the work they are doing. For more information, visit the website.

(Translated by Marie-Thérèse Slorach)

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