A Letter from one of our volunteers who visited our project with ACJ in Bogotá

Our partner ACJ has a youth centre which is a protective oasis for children and young people at risk of commercial sexual exploitation (CSEC) in the middle of the ‘tolerance zone’, in Santa Fe (Bogotá). In this area, children and young people are surrounded by legal sex workers and high levels of gangs and drugs. ACJ provides recreational workshops for children and young people, as well as their families where they learn about their rights and how to protect themselves from CSEC.

 

Clara Ines Diaz M.

“My motivation to support ACJ in Bogotá through Children Change Colombia (CCC), last year, coincided with my opportunity to visit them this year.

When we arrived with Carol and Marta, my hosts, we had a warm welcome with around 20-30 children having mid-morning snacks, but a “tinto” brought us a chance to participate in one of the weekly meetings with the women leaders, on the first floor. ACJ offer to them a safe space to learn, share their experiences, to build their confidence, to explore different sources of income, and to become heroes in their own community. 

I would have loved to stay listening/chatting to them, but now our “tinto” really was waiting for us, real tinto from a huge “greca” (cafetiere) as the people from Bogotá call it. 

 

The second part of the visit was spectacular, the children and teachers had done an excellent job preparing a performance for us, with songs and dances, from Colombian music to Tik-tok. I can imagine the choreography required a lot of time and patience to put together, but what fun they had and shared with us.

I remember a teenager that sang a song specially composed, I can’t remember the song’s lyrics, but I loved it and I imagine him as a singer, in few years, if the opportunity came to his door.

My overall impression is that children in ACJ are treated with respect, that they feel valued, safe, and most importantly loved. We had an activity where we received empty cards and a pen to write our names, and the idea was to add a complement to the owner’s card which were rotating from left to right. I loved the activity, because it builds their confidence, their capacity to complement others, and motivates them to participate. 

To finish, we were invited to visit the area, to understand better the situation that ACJ is working on. More than 20 years ago, the area was declared a “tolerance zone”, but even in that space of a few streets and avenues there is a complex hierarchy of power, a lack of security, and an invisible wall which keeps all ACJ’s community out of the capital city’s great opportunities. 

 

I appreciated a lot of the care from the ACJ team, we were accompanied by 3 of them, who explained the situation beyond what we could see for ourselves. 

What impacted me, the most, was the uncertainty of the families to have a place to sleep at night, they could be staying in different places each night, sharing the same rooms, in some cases the same bathroom which increases the risk for the children to get involved in troubles. 

When we returned to ACJ, I could even share the feeling of the children arriving from school to stay during the afternoon, ACJ premises are a refuge that additionally offers a lot of fun. 

 

I want to finish giving a special “fried egg” clap and a “superman” clap to each of the ACJ members who commit their time every day to ensure the children, parents and community find a refuge to feel safe, cared for, and happy in the middle of their daily constraints. ACJ transform their lives throughout simple things that will allow them to prepare for a different option of life. 

If you share my point of view through my experience, I just need to say, donations could seem too small to count but for those children they make a huge difference.” 

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