Due to the coronavirus, the Tiempo de Paz children’s centres are currently closed, pending further direction from the Government in Colombia. We are working with the foundation to deliver soap and groceries to the vulnerable families who will face increased pressure during this time. We will continue to assess and respond to the needs as best we can.
This is Evelyn.
She is five years old. Evelyn, her brother Camilo, and their mother were struggling in poverty in Planeta Rica, Colombia, and came to Medellin in search of a better life. The kids were not in school. Then, their mother found employment as a cook for the food program through Hope Story’s partner Tiempo de Paz. The employment opportunity was a big deal for the whole family. “We felt very blessed by God,” the boy Camilo said.
The job allowed the family to move to Medellin, and the children were overjoyed to reunite with their mother. Today the family lives in modest quarters with a stepfather, aunt, and other relatives who have followed and managed to find some work as well.
The children have now enrolled in school, but the problem is that public schools only operate for half of the day in Medellin, leaving children alone for the remainder of the day while parents work.
“Children that are left home alone in these neighbourhoods are vulnerable to sexual abuse, forced drug consumption, or to being forcefully used as a ‘mule’ in the transportation of drugs." Liliana, program director
Evelyn shared: “I have been at the foundation [as it’s casually called] for six months, and I feel very happy because I have learned to share with other friends. I like painting and talking to older kids. I enjoy being in the foundation because I make lots of friends there – I play and share with them.”
Sadly, the gang violence in Medellin continues at alarming levels. There were almost 600 homicides in the city in 2019, and an additional 294 people went completely missing. The Boston and San Javier regions, the locations of the centres, were counted among the worst for such violence.
Evelyn continued, “I learn music – I like playing the drums and singing. I eat good food and I am not alone. They teach me songs on Bible topics, and I enjoy it a lot.”
Without the Tiempo de Paz centres, children like Evelyn are at risk of being swept up into the dark world of gangs and drugs. “Dividing the neighbourhoods are invisible lines, and several gangs are in constant conflict,” Liliana shared. A portion of income is routinely demanded from local businesses by these gangs, but they have not made such demands to Tiempo de Paz. Thanks to your support, children like Evelyn and her brother Camilo can see a brighter future ahead.
Asked what is inspiring her, Liliana shared, “I’m inspired to see Jesus acting in the children’s lives, forming their character. I’m seeing children’s aggression lower, and their life’s goals change. They are reimagining their dreams - aiming to become people for the good of society.”
Evelyn’s brother Camilo is also attending one of the centers. He shared, “My life has changed since I am attending the foundation. I feel very blessed. I have learned to share more with my classmates and to respect my elders. I play a lot. I'm in music class, computers and sports class; I go to the park, and I have new friends. I feel very happy with my new life.”
At the centres, the children learn about healthy relationships, learning to know God and love their neighbour in the process. The children bring this learning home, and many families engage with the foundation through biblically based parenting workshops. “The family approach allows us to be a hub of influence and social transformation for the neighbourhood,” shared Liliana. The nourishment of the children is another core element of the program, as most of the children do not have enough to eat. In 2019, the two centres provided 29,272 meals to the children.
The centre also continues to prioritize their child sexual abuse prevention program, and thanks to special support through Hope Story, they have begun rolling out the seminars in 2020 which will reach over 1000 children and 1000 adults in the community. The seminars have been paused during the COVID-19 outbreak.
The centres are growing fast – with the last tally reaching 100 children! Liliana credits this growth to the purchase of the home last year, made possible through generous supporters like you. “The property purchase has had a tremendous impact on the children, parents, staff, and on the community - we can all see the tangible fruit of our common effort, fruit that has translated into a sense of ownership of a space generating transformation, joy, and hope,” Liliana conveyed.
Please pray for public order in the 13th commune (San Javier) where unofficial armed groups continue to cause disruptions and concern. Please pray that Colombia will also overcome the current COVID-19 crisis. Sign up to receive regular prayer requests.