Monday, October 8, 2007

The Inauguration of Colombianitos in Medellin

Diana and I had a very rewarding weekend as Sunday was the inauguration of Project Medellin for Colombianitos. Colombianitos is a charity founded in Atlanta. It has several programs, but its featured program is "Goals for a Better Life" which supports education and family values through a soccer program. Children who want to participate in the soccer school must attend school, achieve good grades, and attend various classes provided by Colombianitos focused on family values and morals. The children are provided with food and drink while in class.

Diana and I discovered Colombianitos a couple of years ago. We had started donating money to various causes for children and ran across Colombianitos. It was a perfect fit for us as they focus on Colombian children and my wife is Colombian. The best part was that we could participate directly with the organization since the Board is based in Atlanta. We soon became members of the board and have been working with them for a couple of years.

As soon as we became Board Members we started encouraging them to open a project in Medellin, Diana's hometown. We were fortunate enough to find Luz Maria, who pretty much knows everyone of significance in the city. She quickly became enamored with the project. Late last year we found the perfect site for the project located in the outskirts of Medellin, high up the hills in one of the poorest neighborhoods in Medellin. There was a soccer field already in place next to the local school and local leaders were very optimistic and supportive of the project. Earlier this year, she contacted various local companies and along with Colombianitos President helped raise the remaining funds needed for the project.

The project opened up two weeks ago and already 250 children are enrolled. We expect the numbers to increase over the next couple of weeks as the inauguration was a big success in the community. The mayor of Medellin attended and several hundred children. There was music, dancing, rap, and games and everyone seemed to have a great time. It was encouraging to me to see a mother walk up to our coordinator with her child and ask how she could get enrolled.

The highlight for Diana and I was seeing this guy Freddy. We met Freddy last December when we visited the location. He is a popular guy in the community with an infectious smile and lots of energy and was wearing a hat from my alma mater, The University of Georgia. The hat was a little dated and we promised to bring him a new one on our next visit. It was amazing to see the appreciation in his face and smile when we brought him the new hat. He said it was like receiving 1 million in pesos (or $500) and told us that he wished we could see how open his heart was at the moment. He later introduced his mother to us. He also has a rap group and they had prepared an original song about Colombianitos which they performed for everyone. He is just one example of how appreciative the community was to have Colombianitos there.

So it was a great day for Diana and I. This community is extremely poor, but you can see hope in the children and support from the parents and leaders of the community. Hopefully with some opportunities some of these children will be able to rise above the daily problems they have to face every day. It will great for Diana and I to be able to visit the school and see their progress every time we come to Medellin to visit family.

There is a great documentary that I encourate everyone to see to learn about some of the hardships that people suffer in suburbs of Medellin. Medellin has one of the highest murder rates in the world due to gangs and drugs and teenage pregnancy is the norm rather than exception. Hopefully a little education can start to make a difference. You can rent it through Netflix and it is called La Sierra.

If you are interested in learning more about Colombianitos please visit, Donations are tax deductible in the states.

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