Among our programs, Healing Colombia focused on a neighborhood where violence reigned. Two years ago, 14 teenagers in the area were killed in gang wars between the three main gangs. This year, one of the gangs has disappeared. Why? After a year of intense group therapy and personalized attention, the leaders of the gang decided it's not worth it to throw their lives away in this senseless manner! This has caused a chain reaction and impacts the whole community.
The pattern of violence, vengeance and criminal behavior can be changed. We are now carrying out a series of workshops in local schools.
Healing Colombia runs a youth center in the north of Bogotá that offers alternatives: music, informal education, technology, English language, work ethics, and spiritual and psychological support.
To give you an idea of the critical situation surrounding Colombia’s youth in general: 25% of girls between 15 and 18 are pregnant or have children. And in the lower social classes, an estimated 85% of the female population below 20 years of age have been abused.
A UN survey on the psychological conditions of children and youth in countries with this level of violence has shown the desperate need for help to heal their hearts and minds. Some have seen their parents murdered, or have been robbed of the land of their ancestors. Imagine the feelings of vengeance, which could produce a wave of violence over the next 20 years that will far surpass what we are witnessing now.
So where do we center our attention? On the children and youth of Colombia.
Our programs are designed to draw young lives into a new sphere of understanding where they can take on an active role in building a better future not only for themselves, but also for their communities. In a nation at odds within its own borders, many of the victims are children and adolescents, tomorrow's adults who will turn to vengeance if they find no answers to the indiscriminate violence and conflict that directly affect their lives.
We believe the world must look beyond the heart breaking exterior of poverty and neglect, and into the eager faces of Colombia's youth whose hearts are full of love, hope and the will to rise above. They refuse to give in, and continue to believe that the seeming hopelessness of their situation is not impossible to overcome.