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Tiempo de Juego 

The issue: Risk of violence and recruitment into armed groups 

Cazucá, in Soacha, near Bogotá, is one of Colombia's poorest and most dangerous communities. 7 out of 10 people living here have been displaced by Colombia's ongoing, violent conflict and over 74% live below the poverty line.

Families living in this sprawling barrio, ascending up into the hills surrounding Bogotá, have limited access to even the most basic services, including water, electricity, health care and education. Many of the families here are large and headed up by single mothers, who struggle to make a living and look after their children with no support.

Most schools in Colombia only provide half-day schooling, and given the lack of recreational spaces in the area, many of the children and young people from Cazucá spend a lot of time on the streets. Here they are faced daily with the harsh realities of drugs, crime and gangs, and are vulnerable to being recruited, often forcibly, by urban militia groups, which have a strong presence in the area.

Children here grow up on the fringes of society and reach youth and adulthood with a sense of hopelessness and desperation. Although they are full of potential, they don't have the skills they need to build a positive future for themselves, or role models to show them that a life away from gangs and violence is possible.

How Tiempo de Juego is addressing this issue

Since 2007, Tiempo de Juego has developed a way of playing centred around guiding 'principles', like honesty, respect, tolerance, equality, commitment and team work. The idea was that the principles could be applied in other areas of the children's lives, helping to protect them from the numerous risks they faced.

A structure was developed where 'youth leaders', young people trained and supported by professionals, began to lead some of the activities themselves. The effect of this is that children are inspired by the leaders and adopt the principles they have learnt in the project hoping that they too can become youth leaders one day. In turn the young leaders realise the responsibility of their position and become positive role models both within the project and in the community itself. This is vital in Cazucá, where, for many children, their only role models are involved in gangs and violence.

What does the project do?

Since 2013 Children Change Colombia and Tiempo de Juego have been working together to bring this project more expressly out into the community and into schools, using music, drama, film, dance and visual arts - subjects chosen by the young people themselves. In their half day outside school, 284 children and young people work in groups to analyse the risks and positive potential of the context in which they live, guided by workshop leaders and peer mentors (selected by Tiempo de Juego for their leadership abilities).

The outcomes of these sessions are used to develop performances and works of art that express the young people's ideas and opinions about their neighbourhood. These pieces are then presented to the participant's families and members of the local community as a way to showcase the positive abilities they have developed and engage the community in their efforts for positive change in Cazucá.

Watch a video of this project with Tiempo de Juego on our Youtube channel.

 

Case Study: Eduardo's story

Eduardo's dad was murdered when he was 5. His Mum had left years earlier and was living in Cazucá, a sprawling barrio on the outskirts of Bogotá. Alone, terrified and desperate to find her, he packed his bag and caught a bus to Bogotá. When he arrived, he found that he didn't feel safe anywhere. Outside he was harassed by the gangs that ruled the streets, and at home he faced his violent stepfather. By the age of 12 he was taking drugs – it was the only refuge he could find.

One day Eduardo heard that some locos ('crazy guys') had started a football school called Tiempo de Juego on a piece of waste-ground near his house. Eager to do something fun, he borrowed some trainers and went along. Now, 6 years later, Eduardo's life has been transformed by the project – he has given up drugs, is finishing school and has become such a committed and passionate advocate that he was recently made a "youth leader," with a small salary.

"I used to think that however hard I tried to escape, my life was bound to repeat the same old story - I'd join a gang, get involved in drugs and crime, and end up either in jail or in the cemetery. Everything changed when I arrived at Tiempo de Juego - I started to believe that I could dream of a different life, that every step I took could lead to a better future."

Read more of Eduardo's inspiring story in our Christmas Appeal 2014.

 

Thank you for your interest in this project

To help Tiempo de Juego's work continue, you can donate here.