A total of 47 children from a Christian community in Istmina, Choco Region in Colombia are being benefited by the implementation of the Learning to Live Together programme (LTLT) since November 2016.
The implementation is taking place in the community of San Agustin and in Templo Comedor on a weekly basis and is led by four facilitators trained on the use of the LTLT programme, Ms Sally Lorena, Ms María Reyes, Ms Yusi Alexandra and Hermana Gladys with the support of Father Ernesto Zapato.
According to recent statistics, the Choco Region in Colombia has the highest poverty rate in the country; Istmina’s residents are deeply affected by rampant violence, unemployment and low access to health and education services. Children are particularly vulnerable in these contexts with very little opportunities to come together to express their thoughts and feelings and learn from one another.
The first sessions of the implementation of the programme were dedicated to create a safe environment for children to express their opinions and to get to know each other through the use of cooperative games and highly participatory activities.
Population in Choco is 90% afro-descendant. The shared feeling of discrimination among children, youth and families is very strong in San Agustin and in El Comedor. Affected by poverty and living in an area associated to a high level of violence often results in children being discriminated against and excluded in the school.
Some of the first thematic issues discussed in the program were about identity. Through activities from the Learning to Live Together manual children reflected on their identities and relations with others, and the importance of respecting another’s identities. Opportunities were also created for children to work on their stereotypes and prejudice towards others. Through an introspective process, participants reflected on the needs and feelings of others and strengthened their spirituality. During the process, children also worked in their communication skills, and learning to actively listen to others.
“I am very happy to see my children in this program because they not only nurture values but also have fun while doing it. I am happy seeing this”, expressed the mother of one of the children participating in the program. As the sessions progress, children are working on identifying conflicts, violence and injustices around them and exploring respectful and non-violent ways to communicate.
It is expected that the children who have participated in the program, will continue working with their peers and promoting spaces for children’s participation to contribute to transform their communities.
Our appreciation goes to the Catholic Church of Colombia, Diocesis of Istmina – Tadó City, particularly to Father Ernesto Zapata for the unwavering support to the implementation process.