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Colombia is known for its diverse landscape of tropical beaches, dense rainforests and towering mountains. It is also a country where 30% of the people live in poverty with food insecurity and insufficient education. Compassion-assisted children experience these realities daily. But at the Compassion center, there is hope.
45YEARS SERVING COLOMBIA
A group of children celebrate New Year’s Eve with colorful balloons.
A boy smiles while sitting on a fence near his home.
Children learn soccer skills at their child development center.
A girl sits in a chicken pen holding a chick in her hand.
Three brothers from northern Colombia smile as they run down a dirt road.
A baby boy splashes in his bathtub.
Girls and boys who are learning to farm wave their straw hats to welcome visitors.
Children learn to practice good hygiene as they stand in line to wash their hands at their child development center.
A girl smiles as she splashes her feet in the river.
A boy holds a “thank you” sign to represent his gratitude.
When do children visit the Compassion center?
Issue: Colombia’s poorest people live in rural areas, where 43% are food insecure — which means they don’t know where their next meal may come from. In indigenous communities on the coast, 90% of children under age 5 are malnourished.
Response: Compassion child development centers offer healthy snacks and lunches for every child. Designed to provide nutrition that may be missing from typical diets, these meals often contain rice and beans to keep hungry bellies full and foster healthy growth.
Prayer Point: Pray for the overall health and growth of Colombia’s neediest children, that they’ll overcome the chronic undernutrition that can affect their cognitive development.
Beneficiaries receive nutritional support from their child development centers.
Visit the Compassion blog to learn more about our work in Colombia.
Colombia has an extremely varied and beautiful landscape. It is home to snow-covered volcanoes and mountains, tropical beaches, vast grasslands and dense jungles.
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Official Name: Republic of Colombia
Form of Government: Presidential republic
Official Language: Spanish
Currency: Colombian peso
Area: 439,619 square miles (1,138,910 square kilometers)
During the pre-Colombian period, the area now known as Colombia was inhabited by indigenous peoples who were primitive hunters or nomadic farmers. The Chibchas, who lived in the Bogotá region, were the largest indigenous group.
The Spanish sailed along the north coast of Colombia as early as 1500; however, their first permanent settlement, at Santa Marta, was not established until 1525. In 1549, the area was a Spanish colony with the capital at Santa Fe de Bogotá. In 1717, Bogotá became the capital of the Viceroyalty of New Granada, which included what are now Venezuela, Ecuador and Panama. The city became one of the principal administrative centers of the Spanish possessions in the New World, along with Lima and Mexico City.
On July 20, 1810, the citizens of Bogotá created the first representative council to defy Spanish authority. Full independence was proclaimed in 1813, and in 1819 the Republic of Greater Colombia was formed.
The new Republic of Greater Colombia included all the territory of the former Viceroyalty. Simon Bolívar was elected its first president and Francisco de Paula Santander, vice president. Two political parties grew out of conflicts between the followers of Bolívar and Santander and their political visions - the Conservatives and the Liberals - and have since dominated Colombian politics.
Colombia's history also has been characterized by widespread, violent conflict. Two civil wars resulted from bitter rivalry between the Conservative and Liberal parties: The War of a Thousand Days (1899-1902) claimed an estimated 100,000 lives and La Violencia (1946-1957) cost another 300,000 Colombians.
Colombia still struggles with violent conflict as drug trafficking and corruption run rampant in the country. According to SIPRI (el Instituto Internacional de Investigaciòn Sobre Paz), the internal conflict in Colombia is among the 10 most bloody in the world.
Drug trafficking continues to grow, and presidents resolve to fight. Former President Álvaro Uribe survived 15 assassination attempts before coming to office.
Despite decades of internal conflict and drug-related security challenges, Colombia maintains relatively strong democratic institutions characterized by peaceful, transparent elections and the protection of civil liberties.
Source: The World Factbook, 2014.
Colombia has produced many fine novelists, such as Gabriel Garcia Marquez, who won the Nobel Prize in literature in 1982. Colombia has a saying: "There are 200 poets for every 100 inhabitants in Colombia!"
Colombia is also known for its internationally acclaimed artists (such as Botero and Obregon), its many art museums and studios, and outstanding architecture. Folk and ancient Indian cultures also contribute to a variety of arts and crafts.
Folk music and dances, opera, classical, modern and jazz are popular. Singers such as Carols Vives, Shakira and Juanes have been influential.
Spanish: ¿Como le va? (How's it going?), ¿Como está? (How are you?), Buenos dias. (Good day.)
Sports & Games
Football (soccer) is Colombia's main sport, with major league games played throughout the year. Tennis is popular; most hotels have facilities. Mountain climbing begins 30 miles east of Santa Marta, with peaks of up to nearly 19,000 feet. A major cycle race, the Tour of Colombia, takes place every March and April. Boxing and bullfighting (the latter at Bogotá, Cali, Medellín, Manizales and Cartagena) are also popular sports. Golf clubs allow visitors to use their facilities, and good skiing can be found on the slopes of Nevado del Ruiz (17,700 feet), 30 miles from Manizales.
Colombians eat rice, chicken, beans and fruit.
Colombians make juice from every fruit, including watermelon, cantaloupe, pineapple and papaya. They serve the juice with a plato typical (typical plate), which includes pork or beef, rice and potatoes, guacamole and fruit.
The typical school year runs from February to November. Registration and yearly fees must be paid for public schools. However, costs are lower than they would be in private schools. Public school fees cost around 4 percent of the fees for private schools. In urban areas, schools tend to be overcrowded. In rural areas, facilities are inadequate and teachers may not show up for classes.
By law, Colombia must spend at least 10 percent of its annual budget on education. Financing and supervision of public education is the joint responsibility of the Ministry of Education, the departments, and the municipalities. The central government also pays teachers' salaries.
In 2001, about 36 percent of children between the ages of 3 and 5 were enrolled in some type of preschool program. Primary school enrollment in 2003 was estimated at about 87 percent of age-eligible students. The same year, secondary school enrollment was about 55 percent of age-eligible students. Dropout rates are high at the primary level, particularly in rural areas, where the students frequently live at considerable distances from their schools. Almost all secondary schools are in the larger cities; thus, little educational opportunity is open to rural children, except those reached by educational radio and television broadcasting.
The constitution states there is no official church or religion but it adds that the State "is not atheist or agnostic, nor indifferent to Colombians' religious sentiment." Some interpret this to mean that the State unofficially sanctions a privileged position for Roman Catholicism, which was the country's official religion until the adoption of the 1991 constitution.
The constitution recognizes parents' right to choose the type of education their children receive, including religious instruction. It also states that no student shall be forced to receive religious education in public schools. However, the Roman Catholic Church and other religious groups may provide religious instruction in public schools to students who wish to receive it or may establish parochial schools. The Roman Catholic Church has a unique agreement with the government to provide education in rural areas that have no state-run schools. These schools are tax-exempt.
Source: International Religious Freedom Report, released in 2012 by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor.
Independence Day: July 20 — Celebrated with parades.
Boyaca Battle Day: Aug. 7 — Colombia's independence day.
Christmas: Dec. 25 — In evangelical families, parents generally give gifts to their children during a special Christmas supper, which includes a special custard called natilla and donuts, called buñuelos, along with other sweet foods.
Visit the Compassion blog to read posts about Christmas in Colombia and traditional Christmas traditions and celebrations in Colombia.
Compassion has been working in Colombia since 1974. These Colombia facts and statistics provide a good picture of the reality of poverty and how child sponsorship through Compassion is making a difference.
Poverty is a problem in the country of Colombia but with your support, Compassion is working to change this. The Colombia facts tell a difficult story, but Compassion is bringing hope in the midst of the difficulties. Our programs are changing the statistics one child at a time.
Don't let the hopelessness of poverty overwhelm you. You can make a difference to a child in Colombia today!