Up a dusty road I go. Between worn houses and small shops, where dogs and cats are everywhere. They play, they eat and sometimes they look like they have left this world. I clench my fists hard around the handles, the road is bumpy and so is the ride. Behind us we leave a cloud of dirt, me, the driver and the ‘moto’. Before long I can see hilltops surrounding the little village and within a blink of an eye I can see the football field which has become a synonym for reward for these children. Just above it is our little school, all blue on the outside, full of life on the inside. We turn the corner, pass the field and we are almost there. I know what is coming and I smile. Those little feet speeding up as they see me getting off the motorbike, smile on their faces. They shout ‘teacher, teacher!!!’ and I got nothing to do but surrender to these beautiful little humans who show such joy at seeing a stranger who’s there to spend time with them. I hardly get off the bike before I am overwhelmed with hugs and kisses, those small hands squeezing me hard. It has become my favourite part of the day, this heartwarming greeting.
I have arrived at Colombia Sin Fronteras, a small charity run school in a poor, struggling community outside of Santa Marta on the caribbean coast of Colombia. The foundation was set up to encourage the children that live here to come to school and learn what so many other kids the same age already know. These children haven been dealt some bad cards so early in their lives and sadly this community don’t have a lot to offer the them. Most of the children live in crammed small houses with parents, siblings and extended family members. Some are raised by other relatives because they don’t have parents who are able to take care of them. Moreover too many of these children don’t have an adult role model to teach them right from wrong and the values of life that we see as an inseparable part of learning as we grow up. Thus their prospects without a proper education are by no means pointing in a positive direction.
Even though they attend state run schools in the morning they are still not getting the help and education they need to progress accordingly to other children. And that’s where Colombia Sin Fronteras (Colombia Without Borders) comes in. Together with Libia, the brain behind it all, the volunteers try and teach the kids the skills they need to hopefully break free from a badly educated community and to blossom and become young, intelligent adults who will have the opportunity to do something good with their lives.
Let me tell you about Libia though. This woman is incredible. She started the foundation in 2011 to help out these kids who have close to nothing. Everyday since she has been committed to the school and the around fifty children who attend classes. The kids love her dearly and for some she is the role model they are lacking at home. As Colombia Sin Fronteras is a non-governmental project – a grassroots charity, only existing because of this woman’s huge heart and dedication, it depends on donations and the help of volunteers, like me, who come to Santa Marta to assist Libia with arranging and having classes. Monday to Friday we jet out to the Gaira Valley to spend time with the kids. Currently we have three different classes divided between age and level of knowledge. Libia takes care of the youngest ones who are still learning the ABC’s and very basic education. On the next level we have the kids who are in there process of learning to read and write properly as well as basic math skills. They have some wonderful teachers and volunteers; Claudia, Lucie and Jo. Lastly, but not least we have the oldest children who already know basic reading and writing skills and who we are trying to help develop even greater capacity. Together with Leanne I am in charge of this class and we trying to educate at the best of our abilities.
There’s no denying that days here are sometimes hard both for kids and volunteers, no point in sugarcoating. Volunteer life has both its ups and downs. Some days classes don’t go according to plan and we rub each other the wrong way. In the the heat of the moment (literally) the kids are sometimes hard to deal with and sometimes they can be screaming, fighting, lazy troublemakers. It makes classes hard inside a small room without windows and 40 degrees being blown around by fans. This is just the physical challenges, but what more is the lacking communication skills when things kinda gets a little bit out of control. Still just a student, the Spanish the children are speaking are most of the time impossible to understand, which makes it more or less hopeless to try and solve conflicts in class when I don’t know what the problem is. Moreover it also makes it hard to help out with tasks and exercises when I don’t know what they are asking me or if I don’t know how to explain it to them in Spanish. Thankfully, my understanding and language skills are improving and as I get to know the kids we move forward both with our relationship and their educational progress. In the most exhausting, crazy hours I try and remember that the children’s lack of concentration and enthusiasm it most of the time not their fault, but caused by factors they can’t avoid. Like not being properly fed, coming to class in the afternoon without eating all day, or even worse, when they haven’t had any water because they can’t find any. Most houses in this little village doesn’t have water supplies which mean families are forced to buy water which is hard when it’s hardly enough money to pay for all other necessities.
The job is challenging, no doubt about it, but at the end of the day it is worth every struggle to know that you are helping kids on the way at getting the education that they deserve. They are all such loving, open and intelligent children with a joy for life that is so heartwarming to witness. It angers me to know the opportunities they are deprived of because of reasons outside of their control. They really have made a difference in my life and they are teaching me everyday valuable lessons about, patience, friendship and love for fellow humans. I will miss all of them when I leave for there are few places where I have felt as loved as with the children of Colombia Sin Fronteras.
Like they have made an impact on me, I hope I have done the same with them and to be able to help their education after I am gone would be absolutely amazing. To do this I and the children of Colombia Sin Fronteras need your help. I have decided to set up a page where you are able to donate an amount towards helping the kids that I work with. At the end of my time with the foundation I would like to surprise Libia and the children with the money that we have been able to raise for them. Like so many other kids around the world these children deserve our time and help. Experiences like this makes me realise how lucky I am to be able to go back to Norway. A place where I know I have my family, a home and a safety net if I ever get in trouble. I have everything I need and far more. Such important things in life that we are taking for granted. I want to be able to help these kids so that at least they will be able to know such basic things as reading and writing and knowledge about the world that can take them so far. I hope you would like to help out too.
Your money would be spent wholly and fully on the kids and supplies that we need to be able to teach them in a proper manner. Such as notebooks, pencils and other articles that will make learning easier for them. Other things we would buy is for example paper and ink so that we as teachers will be able to print off work from the internet or make copies so that we have enough for all the children in the class. Colombia Sin Fronteras have had wonderful help from other people who have donated plenty of books, the problem is only that one copy won’t be enough for a class of 15 children and that’s when we need to multiply!!! One other important thing that we just have to buy for the kids is water. With a donation of $10 you can help giving the children this prime necessity for a much as 17 days while they are at school!!
Life in Colombia is relatively cheap to us westerners and a small amount goes such a long way here. Please help me raise money for these wonderful children that I have come to care for so much. Thank you for any contribution you are able to donate, it means a lot to me and Colombia Sin Fronteras.
TO DONATE MONEY CLICK HERE – GIVING CHILDREN A CHANCE IN LIFE. THANK YOU!!!!!