Last Sunday, June 14, was the official launch of the Alliance for Coexistence and Social Development in the district of Aguablanca in Cali, Colombia. With various speeches, initiated by Dr. Roberto Navarro, the Secretary General of Autónoma University and one of the great spirits and co-founders of the FundAutonoma Foundation, and followed by among others a local priest, a couple of other dedicated PhD:s and the principal Victor Hugo of Santa Rosa, the large public school of the area. Having witnessed Hugo's dedication on a number of occasions (especially memorably in his own school where I was invited to speak before almost 300 parents) it was still striking to hear his account of the local statistics concerning homicides among minors. Copying from Michael's earlier account:
"According to UN statistics (2003), the average number of urban homicides (globally) stood at 7 per 100,000 inhabitants. Colombia I'm afraid to say, is at the top of the list with a shocking 80 homicides/100,000. Now before you dispatch the marines, these figures must be placed in some kind of context. There is no doubt that compared to the average Colombia is a dangerous place, however these dangers are localised to very specific areas and invariably involve gang/drug related incidents. Beyond these neighbourhoods, people are getting on with their lives as they do everywhere else, in fact one of the principle local complaints is the absence of any good news stories from the international headlines."
The fact that the violence is located to these specific areas increases of course the statistics here, especially since Cali shows the highest numbers of homicides in Colombia with its local top in the Poblado 2 neighborhood, the area of this very alliance launch and where the Fundautonoma Foundation works. Victor Hugo's speech counted to 57 killings among minors in the first quarter this year in the area, implying a higher number than ever. A homage for the dead youths was made with everyone present being given a white flower by Dr. Leonor Navarro - the even greater spirit and co-founder of the Fundautonoma Foundation - to be put in a specially designed wooden cross full of wholes. The local priest Freddy asked everyone to join and Dr. Roberto Navarro continued expressing the great need for an alliance working against these statistics.
The event was finished with performances by local youths, a couple of musical acts and a dramatization of the hard life in Aguablanca. A boy is born. He grows up to school age and gets drawn to the gang life. The father gets ill and dies and while the mother is still in mourning, the son gets into deeper problems and in his first teenage years he ends up shot and killed.
To prevent this from continue happening to the innocent kids like the one on the picture everyone present was invited to join the struggle of the alliance by committing to help in any way possible, through ones organization or individually.
This day I signed as an individual, but hope I can create or become part of an organization that can do great things to provide opportunities of a rich and happy life for these children, to prevent them from growing up just to end up with problems and like the one dramatized - shot and killed.