by Rosa Camargo de Bravo.
Young people and adolescents from disadvantaged areas of the city of Medellín in Colombia are exposed to many risks. These include enrolment into illegal armed groups, injury, death, drug addiction, teenage pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases and natural disasters.
Since 1989, the year Footsteps began, Club Deportivo – a Christian non-governmental organisation – has worked with children and young people from some of the most disadvantaged areas of Medellín. Through sport and recreation (principally football), psychological support, mentoring, academic support and a constant promotion of Biblical principles these young people are offered an alternative to violence and delinquency and are helped to resolve their conflicts in more appropriate ways.
Football is an effective way into the lives of children and young people. They are much more likely to attend a sporting event than a workshop or seminar. Because of the cultural importance of football, Club Deportivo has never had any problems gaining the acceptance, attention and respect of young people, their families, the state and community organisations. Over the years some of the players have gone on to become leaders, trainers and evangelists in their own neighbourhoods.
Club Deportivo promotes equal rights for men and women. As a result, in the neighbourhoods in which they work women are now given more respect, particularly when they are using public facilities such as football grounds and taking part in organised sporting events.
Many of the organisation’s staff live in the same neighbourhoods as the beneficiaries – some used to be beneficiaries themselves – which ensures a constant presence and deep understanding of local needs and issues.
Building on the experience already gained, Club Deportivo is planning to spend the next three years focusing on helping 1,200 children and young people from 15 disadvantaged areas of Medellín to reduce the risks that they face every day by living a life more grounded in biblical principles.
Experienced sports coaches and evangelists will develop a programme of sports activities, such as training sessions, football games and tournaments. There will also be opportunities for the children and young people to go on recreational camps and attend ‘cultural peace afternoons’ during which they will enjoy table games, live music and other entertainment. Each event will include times of prayer and short evangelistic talks.
Relationship building and one-to-one mentoring are central to the project, along with home visits. A teacher will be available to help the children achieve better marks at school. A psychologist will help them with any other issues that they might have, such as recuperation from traumatic experiences. Local church leaders will also be involved on a voluntary basis.
During training sessions the following topics will be covered: conflict resolution, the consequences of breaking the law, domestic violence, political actions available to civil society, disaster prevention, gender equity, sexual and reproductive health, HIV, integral mission and restorative justice.
Through a campaign of public awareness, churches and other organisations present in the area will be encouraged to analyse the issues in their communities and get involved in development activities, working together to make the greatest difference possible.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Web: www.cusportsclub.org