Colombia: How a mum has built a livelihood out of rubbish

By Monalisa Michielin, Colombia Portfolio Advisor

In June this year, I visited Colombia to monitor Australian sponsorship field projects. For the last four years I monitored the Camino Hacia Esperanza project because of its issues with violence, drugs, rubbish on the streets, and to check the impact that World Vision and the Child Sponsorship program is having in this area.

During one of the community meetings in the Camino sponsorship project, I met Ana. She is one of World Vision’s longest devoted community volunteers, whose son has been a sponsored child in the project for the past nine years.

Ana is married and has two other children who are now adults. She also has a granddaughter with an Australian sponsor.

Ana has been living in the area for 23 years. When World Vision started working in her community she was invited to participate at various workshops and training sessions in order to improve the life of her family as well as the community.

When I first visited this community four years ago, I met a group of volunteers that Ana had recently joined. During my recent visit to the same community I heard Ana speaking about her life transformation at the community meeting.

I was amazed to hear about her life at home prior to World Vision entering her community; she was only permitted to leave the house by her husband when he allowed her to, as part of a macho culture.

One day after dropping her children at the local school, she met one of World Vision’s staff who encouraged her to join the project’s training in leadership, life skills, art and crafts, child protection and many others.



How Ana helped herself and her community with World Vision’s support

The community in the Camino project is known for the rubbish on the streets and lack of rubbish collection. Today the situation has improved, but in some communities, there is still rubbish on the streets. World Vision has worked with a few local government partners and with the police to improve the situation of the collection of rubbish and to provide education to the population, but due to some violence and drug gangs, sometimes the collection has to be interrupted.

Because of the training and support World Vision provided, Ana started working with recycled rubbish and has started making crafts with newspapers and any recycled paper. She has been selling her crafts in the local market, schools and in the community markets.

She has recently painted her house, changed the floor and made her house more secure for her family.

I felt speechless listening to her and watching how she improved her way of living and of her family as well. She is an example of being part of a community that is empowered and self-motivated.

"I considered myself a shy woman, afraid of speaking in public and interacting with the community", Ana says. “Having the opportunity to engage with World Vision projects, I have learnt so many skills, which helped me to improve my self-esteem and to make some changes into my well-being, as well as of my family.”

She says about the meetings, “they are an opportunity to value all people, including my family, and to join efforts for the well-being and development of children, adolescents and young people".

She is now recognised by the community for her leadership, kindness, skill and ability to express her ideas and her participation in training spaces, becoming an example to families and community.

For three years now Ana has worked with boys and girls from six to 12 years of age, carrying out training and crafts workshops oriented to the reuse of recyclable elements for the making of handcrafted objects; these processes have helped families to generate income.

Ana says, "the experience has been an opportunity to teach others to recycle and to take care of the environment: with each paper, bag and bottle that isn’t thrown away we are helping to promote respect for the environment and our surroundings".

Ana is known for being a responsible, enterprising, participative, dynamic and committed woman with excellent initiative and creativity.

When I left she gave thanks “for the institutional support provided by World Vision through its development professionals"; she expects "that many people experience the collective construction of a fairer community and the opportunity to change and commit themselves to be multipliers of knowledge" This is all possible because of Australian supporters committed to improving lives like that of Ana.