Notes from the Field: Bogota, Colombia

I’m Jackie, and I am International Programmes Coordinator at YCI. I have recently visited our partner the YMCA of Bogota in Colombia.

YMCA of Bogota invited us to facilitate a Learning Workshop for a project they are implementing called “Yo me defino” – I Define Myself. The objective of the workshop was to provide a space to the project team to reflect on the learnings of the project at the mid-term stage. Therefore, for 2 days we sat together with the team questioning and challenging them to think about what they have learned so far and what they have done with that learning. The main challenge for them, as well as for many other teams in many sectors, is to have the appropriate tools, support and guidelines to collect and use the learning. We asked the team to give some recommendations to their “past self” to see what they would have done differently. That was a very useful retrospective exercise that will equip them with a practical and simple instrument to reflect individually on their work and their approach to their responsibilities.

I was also visiting the Y Care International project “Youth at Risk” in Bosa, one of the poorest districts in Bogota. The district has high levels of crime and violence, limited educational and employment opportunities: 14% of its population is unemployed, well above the national average of 12%. The project aims at delivering activities that will contribute to long-lasting change and reduction in youth association with violence and risks for young people in the area. This is done through workshops and training to empower youths and support them to develop their life project. I met with some of the young people involved in the project who shared with their stories with me.

Faresh Sarmiento, is 18 years old and is a young leader involved with the YMCA through the project. “I don’t worry only for myself anymore. Now I have somebody else to take care of”. Her refers to the young kids in his community who attend the Graffiti Workshop he facilitates in the communal saloon next to a sports court, “the park”, that has been recently cleaned up and recovered for the young people use.

Jackie with YMCA of Bogota – Bosa Project Staff and young leaders of the project in Bosa in Bogota, Colombia

A group of students at the Kimy Pernia school has created a “Youth Observatory” where young people at school can find support to discuss any kind of problems they might have and develop their life project with support from the young leaders that have been trained by the YMCA.  The school is very supportive of all the initiatives derived from the project interventions like the Media Club, which on a regular basis produces content related to youth problematics.

Christian Rodriguez has been involved in the project for just one year and he already sees his own change: “YMCA is my family. Thanks to them I have learnt to be a new person. Now I can do things that before I was not even able to think about”. He was very shy (and still is sometimes) and now he is even performing in a theatre show. This is what really inspires me to continue working in the sector and supporting these projects is seeing the enthusiasm of the young people and their motivation to improve their lives.

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