Niquitao is one of the areas of Medellín that suffers from a high incidence of poverty, violence and social problems such as drug addiction and crime. Three years ago our Street Educators discovered a hidden problem here—-children who whilst living in tenements were actually suffering all the same dangers and deprivations as street children.
The tenements were originally built to take homeless families off the street but they had become vandalised and the street had completely invaded them. Prostitution and drugs were rife and there was no electricity. In this atmosphere the mothers had lost all hope and the children were neglected, dirty and did not go to school. They spent their days in the street, in this dangerous area full of drug dealers and criminals. Read below to see what Fr Peter says about the work we are now doing there:
“The street-programme is designed not only to care for children who live in the street but also for those who are at high risk of starting to do so. Funvini’s street-educators found a major concentration of the latter category in Niquitao, a small sector of the barrio Colón. Niquitao is not far from the city centre, and many of its inhabitants work as street sellers there. Others survive by scavenging through the rubbish to find items like bottles, plastic and cardboard that can be sold for recycling. If they are lucky, their earnings will suffice to pay for a small room for the night in one of the many blocks where such accommodation is available. Entire families of ten or more members often have to squash into these rooms. They frequently have to move from block to block, so the population is very unstable. Particularly at night, many of the blocks in Niquitao are centres for the sale and consumption of drugs. They are also centres of prostitution, and this often involves girls and boys as well as adults. All of the children who live in this environment are therefore at very high social risk, and 63 of them benefitted from the preventative work of Funvini’s street-programme in 2016. Martín Rosendo and his team won the children’s interest and the parents’ support by putting on a series of recreational activities. They also put on workshops for children and for adults about some of the dangers to which the youngsters of Niquitao were exposed. Funvini’s social-workers and psychologists then became involved as well, providing help for both families and individuals. A total of 56 of the youngsters from the street-programme were helped to go to -or to remain at – school. Four of them later dropped out of school; and a further four were not promoted to the next grade: but 48 of them completed the year successfully and were promoted.”
In the 3 years since this work was begun the children have been transformed and now stand a much greater chance of not going into the street and being sucked into the criminal-drug world. The video clip below shows an extract from one of Funvini’s recreational and educational sessions with the children in a basement room of the tenement building, where they now meet each week.
Friday afternoon in Niquitao