Miguel’s story: “I’m learning to value myself and stay safe”

Miguel was only nine when he was sexually abused at school. He was also having problems at home and his mum worked long hours, so he spent a lot of time on the streets in Colombia’s capital Bogotá.

“I experienced a lot of things I don’t really want to talk about,” says 13-year-old Miguel. “I ended up drinking and doing drugs – I felt very lonely.”

Miguel was only nine when he was sexually abused at school. He was also having problems at home and his mum worked long hours, so he spent a lot of time on the streets in Colombia’s capital Bogotá. But Bogota’s streets are dangerous and Miguel was putting himself at risk of more sexual exploitation.

Staff at YMCA Bogotá know the risks to children and young people. They run prevention workshops in local schools and when Miguel met them it turned his life around.

“They told me about activities at the YMCA. I was spoken to kindly and I felt at ease. Now I come to the centre three times a week.”

Miguel rarely goes out on the streets any more. “I realise now that I was hurting myself, and that I should listen to those who want what’s best for me and to have a vision for my future.

“It’s hard to change everything overnight, but I’m learning to value myself and others too, like appreciating how hard my mum works. Being in the YMCA group has helped me understand my experiences and move on.”

With specialist training from the YMCA, local schools have integrated commercial sexual exploitation prevention activities into the curriculum, ensuring essential intervention and support continues beyond the end of this project.

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