Colombians have a common desire in their hearts and souls: peace. However, this dream, seems unreachable and it seems as if the violence is more intense in our every day life, in our homes, schools, and in public or private places.
A deep seeded wound
The sheer amount of injuries y deaths caused by family violence or alleged sexual crimes increase rapidly in Colombia. This is why talking about peace, in a country such as this one, more than relevant it is necessary.
Many have debated over this topic, they do this mostly when they have an interest, something to gain from it, but few people are actually willing to work for it.
Precisely this was the starting point for Emilie Baird, a young Canadian who specializes in Latin-american Studies. In 2006 she began with a project that will contribute to our country.
Other people, from different disciplinary backgrounds such as anthropology, environmental engineering, industrial engineering and literature, decided to join forces and created Somos CaPAZes.
They are a non profit organization that wants to educate children and teens to achieve peace, in prevention and conflict resolution, as well as social and environmental commitment.
Starting the project
Since 2007, the organization has helped more than 4.400 people with programs that they have developed for other education and protection foundations that work for children, public and private schools, parents, teachers, and affiliate companies.
If we can do this with a family, we can do it with 10, 50 or thousands of families.
Using games, stories, songs and other type of recreational activities, more than 40 volunteers help participants to discover and practice in constructive ways of problem solutions with those who surround them; specially when the largest amount of victims are children or teenagers.
For example, the issue of bullying in schools is a matter of concern in todays society; given that many have died because of this. According to David Salas, president of Somos CaPAZes, impeding and tackling bullying is one of the pillar stones of the construction models for peace that they have used since their beginning.
They got inspired from programs such as Peace by Peace and the Peace Games, which originated in Connecticut in 1989.
Somos CaPAZes adjusted this programs to the Colombian culture and developed new working initiatives with children in vulnerable regions such as Ciudad Bolivar in Bogotá¡. This year, two new foundations, PINTANDO CAMINOS (painting roads) and ALEGRANDO VIDAS (make happy lives), have welcomed volunteers from the organization with very high hopes.
In fact, the experiences have not only helped the participants but also the volunteers themselves thanks to their selfless work. Paola Cabrejo, one of the volunteers of Somos CaPAZes, tells how a meeting significantly changed her life:
In the middle of one of the activities, a child asked to speak and I thought he had a question, but what he said next would become my greatest motivation as a volunteer.
Last Friday my dad wanted to go drink with his friends. My mom did not agree and they started fighting. I told them that they could solve the problem using the CaPAZ model. They listened to me, stopped arguing and decided to take me to eat ice cream.
The smile of that child when telling his story remained engraved in her memory. That day she understood that they were changing a little boy’s life, who will surely remember with joy the day he went out to eat ice cream with his family.
The work of this association has been so important that it won the 2014 National Youth Volunteer Award in the category of Peace Building, awarded by the Presidency of the Republic and by the United Nations, UN.
This recognition, like the other national and international achievements that Somos CaPAZes has achieved, becomes an additional incentive to fulfill its mission. The aim is that its collaborators continue working from education to train agents of change for peace in every corner of the world.
Now the entity seeks to create a series of virtual programs that allow the training of an increasing number of children, young people, parents and educators in skills for peace and healthy coexistence. Likewise, establish tools that generate a positive impact on more than 10,000 people outside of Colombian territory.