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Downtown Bogota

Fenix Students Facing Up to Hard Times in Bogota

]The latest report from Fundación Fenix highlights the achievements of some very brave young women who continue to work hard and give one another mutual support against a background of Covid, social unrest, violence and personal family problems.  The Bogotá-based charity supports vulnerable young women from abusive backgrounds. It helps them to fulfil their potential and create a better future through full-time education, mainly in the health and social care sectors where they can use their new skills to help society in general.

Directors Tim and Beatriz write:

“The stress and anxiety generated by this long drawn-out pandemic, compounded by lack of jobs, increased poverty and growing violence on the streets, have taken a toll on everyone, but they have also pushed many Fénix girls to think more deeply about their roles in society, their future and their capacity to care for others.

“Some have been energized by the situation and become even more determined to excel in their studies or their jobs and to help support people even worse affected by the crisis.

“Lizeth Angélica says: “Our sense of humanity and solidarity has flourished unexpectedly . . . whilst studying has helped me to center all my energy and think more deeply about things that make me ask questions, which I enjoy: I want to learn more and to be able to offer coherent contributions, to debate better . . . studying Social Work has, I feel, allowed me to connect more with myself and with the context in which I live, to begin to understand the causes of many problems”.”

Fenix has found that girls who have felt abandoned, unwanted or abused can flourish with the right support and encouragement.   With someone – or a group of people – who care about her, have faith in her abilities and interest in her progress a girl who has grown up knowing poverty and abuse  can find motivation, self belief and the confidence and courage to face the toughest personal, academic and social challenges.

When you showed confidence in me I began to feel confidence in myself” (Viviana, now a doctor fighting Covid).

Follow the link to read the full report and catch up with the Fenix girls’ personal journeys:

Fénix 2021 mid-year report[11972

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Celebrating Biodiversity Worldwide

May 22 was Worldwide Day of Diversity – celebrating the wonderful and fascinating variety of life on earth.  There are around 1.2 million known species of animals and plants but scientists estimate that there could be as many as 7 million waiting to be identified.  Many of these are invertebrates such as fungi and bacteria but there are still mammals being discovered.  More than 53 new species of primates have been identified since 2000.

The world is vast and there are many environments that we are only just beginning to explore.   These including remote rainforest canopies such as those in the Colombian Amazon, cloud forests and oceanic trenches.

The 2019 Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Service estimates that around 1 millions animal and plant species are threatened with extinction, many within decades.  Often the ones we hear about as being at risk are the big mammals like elephants, tigers, giant pandas, and whales.  But there are many plants, trees, invertebrates, reptiles, fish and amphibians that are also listed as at risk but don’t hit the headlines.. They don’t make as great a media picture to put on the news but they are just as important.

Fundación Natütama is a Colombian NGO that has been working to protect endangered species in the Colombian Amazon since 2005.  Working with indigenous communities along the River Amazon near Puerto Puerto Nariño, it aims to show local fishermen and villagers how they can protect Amazonian wildlife while living and working in
the same environment. Natütama also runs a conservation monitoring programme with local fishermen to gather information about wildlife numbers, distribution and trends with the aim of identifying and preventing potential threats. Monitored endangered species include the Amazonian manatee, Amazon River Dolphin (Pink Dolphin), Two-Toed Sloth, Amazonian River turtles and Boa Constrictors.

Biodiversity_Children of Colombia-2

 

 

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New electric hospital style beds bought thanks to donations from Children of Colombia

Hurrah – New Beds Delivered!

Exciting news – the new hospital-style electric beds have finally been delivered to the Luz y Vida children’s home in Bogotá purchased thanks to your generous donations to Children of Colombia!

The beds are electrically operated and adjustable to different positions to raise the patient’s back or legs or the mattress height and make it easier for carers to attend to the child’s needs.  They have IV (Intravenous Therapy) stands and custom-built mattresses to help prevent bedsores and improve patient comfort.  They will help the dedicated carers at Hogares Luz y Vida to provide better care and comfort for some of the very sick children who live at the home in downtown Bogotá.

Luz y Vida Director Sister Valeriana Martin has kept us informed of each step in the acquisition process from the initial purchase order and is providing copies of all important documents including receipts, guarantees and national health permits to make sure the process is transparent and we can see where every penny of the money raised is going.

“With great joy we share that after a long wait and formalities, we have received the electric beds!  We already have them in the home; we are just waiting for (technicians) to come and assemble them and provide an induction for their use and care,” writes Valeriana.

“Con gran alegría les compartimos que luego de una larga espera y trámites, nos llegaron las camas eléctricas, ya contamos con ellas en el Hogar, sólo quedamos a la espera de que puedan venir a realizar el armado e inducción para su uso y cuidado; como soporte de ello nos permitimos enviar adjunto los soportes de legalización, factura, garantías permisos de los equipos por parte de la autoridad nacional de sanidad y equipos médicos.”

Education is important at Luz y Vida children's care home in Bogota

It has been a long wait as Colombia is experiencing serious problems.  The staff at Luz y Vida are coping not only with the challenge of caring for very vulnerable children and young people during the Covid-19 pandemic, but also the public protests, marches, strikes and civic unrest that have resulted in massive disruption and violent clashes between police and protesters.

“These two situations have kept us in constant confinement and created difficulties regarding health care and the supply of basic household items due to the closure and blockades of the national road network.  We continue to strive to ensure decent care and quality of life for these children, so we have been able to overcome these circumstances, ensuring timely service and meeting the primary needs of our children, adolescents and young people.”

Currently, Hogares Luz y Vida provides residential care for 230 children and young people who live in their two bright, loving and happy  homes – one in Bogotá and the other in the countryside outside the city for more the more able-bodied.  A further 100 children are enrolled in their external education programmes.Samuel Galvez supports Children of Colombia

A very special thank you goes to Samuel and Gabriel Gelvez-Zapata, two little boys in Cambridge, UK, who set up their own Just Giving page to support Children of Colombia’s Bed Appeal and raised over £700 towards the total.

We will keep you posted as soon as we have more news and pictures of the beds in use!

 

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Bumper Free Donations with your Travel Bookings!

Planning a dream getaway or thinking about a quick city break? No matter where you go, there are bumper FREE donations to be raised for us when you visit @GiveasyouLive Online before you book!

💸 It’s free
📱 There’s a handy app
🛍️ There are over 4,500 stores!

> https://www.giveasyoulive.com/join/childrenofcolombia/_travel?utm_source=charitytoolkit&utm_content=648700&utm_medium=post&utm_campaign=CTTravelCampaign

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Mother’s Day – Shop for Gifts Online and Fundraise for Free!

This year, Mother’s Day falls on Sunday 14th March. Generate free donations for us when you shop gifts, flowers and even cards from 4,000+ retailers with @GiveasyouLive > giveasyoulive.com/join/childrenofcolombia/_search/stores/gifts?utm_source=charityfr&utm_medium=post&utm_campaign=FRmothersday2021&utm_content=220221

Beautiful flowers to arrange at home from Bloom and Wild, great chocs from Thorntons and lots of gorgeous cards from Etsy – with shops still closed, online shopping is simple and gives you fantastic choice to make your mum feel special this Mother’s Day.  So if you can’t be together, let her know you’re thinking of her and help Children of Colombia at the same time.

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Natutama's observation centre to monitor rare Amazon species such as manatees and pink dolphins

Marelvi’s Story – a Personal Account of Life in the Amazon during Covid-19

Marelvi Laureano, one of Fundacion Natütama‘s educators, has written a first hand account of the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic on the indigenous Ticuna community living in the small town of Puerto Nariño in the Colombian Amazon.  Marelvi has a job at the mayor’s office.  She also works for Natütama teaching in her local community about the importance of protecting the environment and conserving its rare, endangered species such as the Amazon’s pink river dolphins, sloths and manatees.

The account is inspiring for Marelvi’s ability to find rays of hope and positivity in the midst of the crisis.  Despite illness,  food shortages, poverty and serious problems due to erosion of the river banks on which the town is situated,  Marelvi says families have been brought closer together, people have appreciated their cultural ties with the land, and plants and animals have thrived during lockdown.   This is a shorter extract.  You can read the original version in Spanish here Natutama – Marelvi’s Account Covid 2020

“For me, life in the time of the pandemic was very difficult, being locked in without contact with other people.  Also, we weren’t able to fulfil our personal objectives or Natütama’s work of reaching out to the communities.

“Furthermore, it was tough economically since most people rely on selling goods for their livelihood and they weren’t able to go out to sell them.  It was also hard for me because the mayor’s office was closed and I was out of work for the pandemic, although we continued working with the Foundation (Natütama) researching local folk tales for future lessons who gave us a bonus.  My family and I got Covid-19 and I had a relapse and had to buy medicines and get plant remedies.  My husband couldn’t go out to get our daily food but … did get work on the cargo boats bringing food supplies to the town.

“At home, my daughters were bored, especially the little one who wanted to go out to play.

“We were also saddened and worried by the erosion of the Zancudillo (the banks of the river) which were washed away with part of the village’s port/dock.

“On the bright side, local flora and fauna flourished in those pandemic months.  The children didn’t leave their houses and the flowers and plants grew and looked beautiful and numbers of fish and other wild animals increased.

“On the other hand most people devoted themselves to cultivating the chagra, the gardens in the jungle where indigenous people grow their fruit and vegetables, and they realised how important the land was and is for their food and diet.  On my plot, I was also able to sow some bananas and fruit with the help of my daughters.  I was able to be with my daughters every day – normally with work we do not have time to be together constantly.  This improved my relationship with my eldest daughter and I was able to gain her confidence so she could tell me personal things that she had stored up.  It also greatly strengthened my family relationship with my mom and sisters.

For me and my family, this pandemic was a learning curve and all our historic cultural values – including the importance of traditional medicine and the management of the chagra as a source of life – were reinforced.  I realised we humans are not prepared for such drastic changes, but little by little we came to appreciate the real value of things.

In conclusion, the situation was difficult economically, socially, culturally, psychologically and health and education suffered but it did have positive effects for the natural world.   With these words I close the experience during the pandemic.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Natutama Maintains Manatee Monitoring Despite Covid-19

Fundación Natütama faced significant challenges in 2020.  The charity, based in Puerto Nariño in the Colombian Amazon, had to contend not only with the impact of Covid-19 but also major flooding which caused serious erosion to the banks of the town and its port.

The pandemic put a stop to the tourist industry – a major income source for the local community – and the floods ruined crops so families were going hungry and had no medical supplies to treat people suffering with Covid-19 in an isolated area with no proper hospitals or medical facilites.  Schools were closed for much of the year interrupting Natütama’s education programme teaching local schoolchildren about the many endangered animals and plants, their place in the local culture and the the importance of conserving the very special natural environment of the Amazonian rainforest.

Natūtama staff worked with members of Fundación Fénix in Bogotá to source supplies of food and essential medical equipment  which Natütama educators distributed to local families at the peak of the crisis. A big thank you to everyone who donated so generously to Children of Colombia’s Amazon Covid Appeal who helped provide this important help at such a difficult time.

Though unable to continue their work in local schools, the educators worked hard preparing material for use in the future and managed to hold their annual Natütama Week despite the many obstacles.

Wildlife monitoring was less affected by the restrictions of the pandemic and sightings of endangered species such as manatees, sloths and pink river dolphins actually increased, probably due to the decrease in river traffic with few tourists visiting the area.  The floods are also changing the environment, creating new lakes and areas suitable for manatees to live and breed safely.  Two orphan manatees were found and taken back to the Natutama centre where they were cared for and bottle fed.  Sadly one died but the other survived and will be returned to the lakes and river when it is fully weaned.

This success was the inspiration for the “Manatees” theme of Natutama Week 2020.   Topics included the significance of these big, gentle aquatic mammals in indigenous culture, where they feature in many folk myths and stories, the danger of extinction due to hunting and changes to their environment and conservation problems associated with the capture of the manatee calves.

“Because of the erosion to the river bank, climate change also became an important sub-theme during the week.  The educators worked hard to find strategies to reach people in the area without forming gatherings and meetings. They developed many posters along the main pathways and used the local loud speaker systems for interviews, story-telling, information and music. The elders talked about manatees and also about the influence of Natütama in the area, especially the benefits for children growing up and learning to care about their history and their surroundings.”

Natütama director Sarita Kendall sums up:

“… although we were unable to carry out some of the usual activities, we worked to use the time and funding in the best possible way and made a difference to the lives of many people in Puerto Nariño, especially in creating opportunities for children to reflect and to celebrate  their Amazon world.”

Read more about Natütama’s important work in the Colombian Amazon on their page  or read the full report here Natütama Foundation – 2020 Summary

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2020 – “Terrifying and Tragic” for Fenix Students

Fenix logo - educational charity in Bogota, ColombiaThe 2020 annual report from Fénix, the Colombian charity which supports vulnerable young women through mentoring and education, makes difficult reading.

“This was a terrifying and tragic year.” writes founding director Timothy Ross. “For the Fénix girls, it meant confinement, fear, the proximity of death and reduced income and hopes, in a nasty echo of early experiences of poverty and trauma.”

Several girls contracted Covid-19 and some lost family members during the pandemic.  The “stay at home” lockdown rules have been stressful for many but they brought much greater hardship for girls living with abusive, violent families.  The usual weekly get togethers, lessons and psychology and mentoring sessions had to be done online and the lack of face-to-face contact and freedom to escape tense home environments were very real set-backs.

Despite the many difficulties, Fénix reports notable academic successes and achievements.  New members have joined the group and are participating in the regular Saturday discussions and classes including Kenyerlith who shared her experiences as a Venezuelan refugee during this time of crisis which led her to take an overdose.  Her Fenix friends got her to hospital and continue to support her after the emergency.  Kenyerlith now has a residence permit and can apply for a place on a SENA course.  “Her great intelligence and insight have allowed her to share with the Fénix group, work with the psychotherapist, to receive warm support and to integrate fully,” reports Timothy Ross.

Sandra graduated from her ‘Tecnólogo’ (Higher Education Diploma) in Human Resources Management and sisters Indira and Lizeth Angélica both achieved excellent academic success at high school and university while coping with the loss of their mother and grandmother.

Funds from Children of Colombia and other supporters have helped Fénix continue its work with these vulnerable students – including providing food and laptops – and the peer mentoring has proved a huge help during the pandemic.  Fénix supported me through depression and anxiety, you opened your arms and listened to me when I most needed it, and even helped economically when I had no work” writes one new member.

Through all their personal struggles and disadvantages, it is very moving to read how these young women have helped others even less fortunate than themselves.  With support from Children of Colombia’s appeal, they sent six shipments of medical material and food to families in Puerto Nariño in the Colombian Amazon which was hit particularly hard by Covid-19 and local flooding.  Kilyam, a fully qualified nurse and former Fénix student, now works full-time with Covid patients in Leticia, in the Amazon area and alerted other Fénix members in Bogotá to the crisis.  Educators from Natütama, the charity based in Puerto Nariño, helped sort and distribute the supplies and it was inspiring to read how the two groups had co-operated for the benefit of the local community.

You can read the full report and more about Fénix on the Fénix charity page

or download here:

Fénix 2020 annual report (updated)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Samuel Gelvez raised money for Children of Colombia's Bed Appeal to help sick children at the Luz y Vida home in Bogota

Bed Appeal Hits Target – Thank You!

A huge THANK YOU to everone who supported Children of Colombia’s Christmas Bed Appeal and helped to raise just over £3000* – way beyond our original target and our expectations.  As soon as we receive the last donations from Just Giving we will transfer the money to Hogares Luz y Vida to purchase specialist, hospital style beds to provide better care and comfort for some of the very sick children who live at the home in downtown Bogotá.  We will follow the process closely from purchase order to delivery and will post pictures of the beds in use as soon as they are delivered.

A very special thank you goes to Samuel and Gabriel Gelvez-Zapata, two little boys in Cambridge, UK, who set up their own Just Giving page to support Children of Colombia’s Bed Appeal and raised over £700 towards the total.

Sandra, their mum, contacted us after five-year old Samuel said he would like to do something special to help less fortunate children in Colombia at Christmas time.  A Colombian working as a hospital consultant in the UK, Sandra is very aware of the added difficulties of caring for vulnerable people during the current pandemic.  She wrote:

“One  day my son Samuel came home from school asking me how he and his brother could collect some money to help children in need from Colombia this Christmas… What do you do as a parent when your 5-year old tells you that?  Well, to start fundraising was the first thing that came to my mind.

“We want to support this charity (Children of Colombia) because they help 3 foundations in Colombia and due to the current situation, there are more children who need a special environment to be safe.”

Samuel painted rocks with beautiful bright rainbows to say a special thank you to his supporters living in Cambridge or working at Addenbrookes Hospital, Royal Papworth Hospital or Lister Hospital.  We – and everyone at Luz y Vida – are so grateful to Samuel for his thoughtfulness for others, his inspiration and all his hard work painting rainbows.   He is truly a very special young man.

 

 

*Includes Gift Aid before Just Giving fees.

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