The Changemaker Stories are a set of interviews that look to redirect the spotlight from the “project impact and outcomes” of our regular work to the humans behind the projects – those who choose to go above and beyond. We hope it will inspire others to do the same and serve as testimony that however big or small your idea is, it is possible to bring positive social change to your community. These are the everyday heroes in the Dream Building Fund project.
My life would not be too different without this education programme, but for our coaches and participants, this might be their only chance to achieve financial stability, end the chain of poverty and realise their dreams. - Laura Forero, Communication Director and project leader of the education programme by Asociación Colombiana De Mujer y Deporte.
Sometimes, it is possible to hit multiple birds with one stone. In Calarcá, a municipality in the eastern part Quindio in Colombia, Asociación Colombiana De Mujer y Deporte saw a great risk of various social issues for local teenagers. With its education programme, project leader Laura Forero aims to reduce violence, prevent early age pregnancy, combat drugs, and encourage the pursuit of dreams for the underprivileged.
“It is about having hope.”
The children must know that there is a world out there where they are entitled to become whomever they want to be. It is about having hope.
Calarcá has the highest prevalence of drug abuse, displacement, family disintegration, risk of direct or indirect recruitment and linkage to armed groups outside the law or to illegal groups associated with drug trafficking or organized crime. To Forero, it is crucial for the teens in a place like this to know there are opportunities out there and they have a lot more potential than what society made them believe.
Having grown up in a middle-class family and while those issues might not have affected Forero, she has seen another kind of adversity as a woman and an athlete.
When I was around 15 to 16, a member of my regional inline skating team gave me a pill before a race. I came in second that time but was feeling weird throughout the race. I still don’t know what they gave me, but after studying sports medicine my best bet would be caffeine. It was pure sports violence.
And the adversity continued.
During my time as the team physician for a soccer team, I was called by the coach to his room, alone. He indirectly requested some sexual favour in exchange to take me on a team trip for an international tournament.”
Having fallen victim to injustice, inequally and harassment twice, Forero began to see the importance of knowing one’s rights.
Some of us are lucky, we know when we have been taken advantage of, or when our rights have been violated. Unfortunately for some, those are just another day in their life. They have seen so much terror and pain that it becomes the norm. It should not be this way and there IS a light in the end of the tunnel.
Her education programme at the Asociación Colombiana De Mujer y Deporte uses table tennis as a vehicle to promote active learning (through listening and group activities). Focusing on actions and learning from the direct experiences of oneself or their partner, the participants are encouraged to make individual and collective reflections on their bodies, values, gender, habits, relationships, and rights.
The roadblocks ahead
Like many other Dream Building Fund projects, the education programme at the Asociación Colombiana De Mujer y Deporte could only properly start in January 2022 due to Covid-19. Despite the impact of the pandemic slowly wearing off, administrative and bureaucratic roadblocks are nevertheless taking a toll on the progress.
Colombia is undergoing a lot, some situation has a direct impact on our programme (Covid-19, elections, change of the municipality mayor), while some might be creating the very problem we are trying to solve.
Even so, Forero remains optimistic, and her motivation is through the roof.
Even the slightest achievement can be a big morale booster. We have recently convinced a mother to let her son participate in our programme. She did not want him to take part because he has bad grades. We brought in an academic coordinator and made a pact with the mother and son to improve his studies.
As pointed out by Forero herself, there is nothing she cherries more than working with teenagers, hearing about their dreams and giving them the opportunities they deserve. And for those living in Calarcá, getting into the education programme by Asociación Colombiana De Mujer y Deporte could be their only chance.
Stay foolish, stay hungry
Forero believes that education and communication are at the core of the programme's success.
In order to Inspire and motivate others we should re-educate our own minds, carefully examine the cultural prejudices we have learnt, share our experiences and be vulnerable and open-minded to be able to make a great impact.”
More Changemaker stories! Read about the EduDrive Table Tennis project in Ofankor and Kweikuma Communities, Ghana.
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