A light for Chocó

By: Laura Viera A
Translated by: Laura Viera A
Photos: Fundación Marajuera

The Chocó is the only Colombian department with coasts in the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. Besides that, it is bordering Panama. And, as if it were not enough is the ecoregion that probably has greater rainfall (the amount of precipitation on a point of the earth’s surface) in the planet.

The Chocó has a very high potential of river and sea fishing that has not been used. And, although there is sufficient wood, it is not used much given the rules of environmental protection. Although the Chocó is an area that has unequaled geographical qualities it has too many problems.

The high rainfall of the department makes agriculture difficult but there are banana, corn, rice, cocoa and coconut crops.

Likewise, mining is a constant market. But much of mining, particularly gold, is done illegally. Unfortunately, this ends up being a source of funding for guerrilla groups.

It is a suitable place for the practice of nature tourism and eco tourism, but because of the public order problems in some regions of the department there is a negative image. Chocó is the poorest department in Colombia.

Foto: Fundación Marajuera
© all rights reserved.

But even in a department so forgotten and hit by such acute problems there are people who have dedicated themselves to providing tools in order to improve the quality of life of young people. This is the case of the Marajuera Foundation.

Due to the need of Johanna and Marcela (founders) The Marajuera Foundation was born in 2014. They needed to create a life project that would help build a better and stronger country. Both had spent some time devoted to social issues in Colombia.

Johanna was working on a project with victims. She was getting to know the violence and poverty problems in various regions of Colombia. On the other hand, Marcela had been working for three and a half years with social responsibility issues, channeling resources for vulnerable populations and showing the return of social investment to donors and allies. As expected, Johanna’s work allowed her to realize that the Chocó was the department with the most critical indicators on poverty, unemployment, child recruitment, alcoholism.

With this in mind, the decision was taken to support Chocó as one of the least accessible regions in Colombia. One factor was really important: going where very few institutions will support and connect the rest of the country with this department.

Foto: Fundación Marajuera
© all rights reserved.

With the opportunity to make the work of this foundation become evident we set ourselves the task of talking to them. The truth was evident without much problem. The need to change and support this department became more evident than ever.

Laura Viera: Why is it important to help the Chocó?

F. Marajuera: Historically they have been supported in a way of care that has generated a paternalism in their people, and they have not been supported through opportunities and tools that allow them to develop skills and talents to generate changes in their culture. This would empower them, it would help them break the circle of poverty.

Laura Viera: Have you encountered absurd / complicated “realities”?

F. Marajuera: Yes, one of them is the lack of vision of their community due to the paternalism to which they were accustomed that allows them to generate ventures to be able to get ahead.

Another shocking issue is the conformity to the forgetfulness the country has, the lack of infrastructure, basic services, waste management and many factors of neglect that are already part of their reality.

Finally, a subject that we had to face was how children from a very young are constantly exposed to factors of violence for which the department has always been attacked, so we decided to focus our efforts on supporting the children, youth and mothers of the department.

“The Chocó and specially its communities have an invaluable richness but its wasted.”

Currently, more than 100 children between one and fifteen years of age are supported and we focus on two main fronts: free time and nutrition. The goal is to provide “Afrochocoano” children with opportunities to demonstrate their wealth, cultural values ​​and talents.

Laura Viera: What are some of the problems faced by young people in the neighborhood called El Poblado, in the south of Quibdó

F. Marajuera: The children and young people of the Poblado neighborhood south of Quibdó are “immersed in a world of violence where they are exposed to child recruitment, clashes of criminal gangs, children becoming hitmen from a very young age, child prostitution, intrafamily violence, feminicides, child abuse and violation of the fundamental rights of children.

In order to be able to support the “afrochocoan” children, they must have the support of allies and donors. This is how they channel the resources to work with the community with transparency. It is important that the results are visible, that the social impact is evident.

It is necessary to take into account that the effects of malnutrition in early childhood can be devastating and lasting. They can also impede children’s behavioral and cognitive development, school performance and health, and weaken future labor productivity.

The under-five malnutrition rate in Chocó is 6.3%, almost double the rate from the rest of the country. This is really troublesome.

Laura Viera: What goals do you have? (medium and long term)

F. Marajuera: Our medium term goal is to continue consolidating the programs in the community. This is important so that they can commit to the projects we carry out and increase the social, economic and environmental impact to 100 families.

In the long term, Marajuera aims to become a cultural and sports center where there is much more than sports and recreational subjects. The idea is to offer technical careers that will generate entrepreneurship in our beneficiary families. The technical careers would be: aesthetics, baking, culinary and other careers that can exercise anywhere in the country.

So far the Marajuera Foundation has achieved enough things, of course they always want to achieve more goals. First, consolidating itself as a foundation has been important for the community, which does not generate paternalism or welfare and is transforming the social imaginaries that exist in Chocó.

At this moment 106 children and 80 families benefit through the different programs they have.

The Chocó has connected with the rest of the country and the world. People from all over the country have developed a conscious regarding the conditions not only of poverty of the department but also of its wealth.

Laura Viera:What else do you need to achieve?

F. Marajuera: We need to have the resources for the construction of the Cultural and Sports Center. This is achieved through allies and institutions that donate resources, land and materials. We need to consolidate our own business units to give sustainability to our programs./p>

An essential subject for the Marajuera Foundation is the different educational opportunities they can provide. This works perfectly through non-formal education, since they believe they can generate tools that allow a positive behavioral transformation, attitudes, reinforcement of values and work in conflict management.

Laura Viera:Why focus on: juego bonito, nutrition and empowerment?

F. Marajuera: Through Juego Bonito our macro program, sport and culture, we are generating changes in a group of children through sport and recreational activities. We are also providing a space for adequate development in a loving and respectful environment./p>
Foto: Fundación Marajuera
© all rights reserved.

In addition, the nutritional reinforcement in which we focus complements the nutritional problems to which the children are exposed and because we do physical activities we must reinforce this component.

Empowerment is of vital importance in our community. They need to be able to connect with a sense of life that promotes appropriate decisions and entrepreneurship. this department is lacking employment opportunities. Many of its people lack a positive vision for the future; through workshops of logotherapy and working from the visionary focus we can connect this community with a development process that will support you to find more reasons to live in a happier and positive way.

Laura Viera:If you have the opportunity to say something to the readers … what would you say?

F. Marajuera: We would tell the readers that the social responsibility of such vulnerable and isolated communities is a responsibility of all, not only the government and the institutions are responsible, the entire society is.

Foto: Fundación Marajuera/br>© all rights reserved.
If people with better life conditions in Colombia would invest socially speaking, the inequality that is lived in the country would end. It is not only about giving bread to the hungry, it is about giving the tools necessary for breaking the poverty cycle.

During our conversation it became cristal clear how important it is to be a godfather. the godfather develops an emotional bond with the child, they give better nutrition, access to training and high quality activities.

On the child’s side, it creates a very strong connection and they feel valued, that someone is supporting their development. That they are appreciated by someone outside their family and social circle. This generates self-esteem, opens relationships and gives children the opportunity to appreciate the opportunities that are given through the foundation.

“It’s important for both the sponsor and the child with whom he connects.”

On the other hand, those who wish to work as volunteers can do so. The doors are always open. However, they are chosen with great caution, always understanding their needs, their abilities and possibilities to help.

The children know that the volunteer must be taught a lesson from our Afro and Chocó roots. This is why we plan specific activities with each volunteer. It is a journey of great learning for both parties.

T he Marajuera foundation is one of a kind. It offers children in choice the opportunity of changing their present and future. Thanks to the work they have been doing small changes have started taking place. And, even if they are slow changes they will endure the test of time. They are people passionate about this communities development, about helping people with problems.



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