Compassion Youth Learn Skills for Life in "The Paradise"

Compassion Youth Learn Skills for Life in "The Paradise"

By: Henry Alberto Guarín, Compassion Colombia Communications Specialist   |   Posted: May 25, 2006

Diego Adrilla, at Compassion's New Life in Christ Social Ministry Student Center

Paradise. For Westerners it's a word that often invokes mental images of azure seas, palm trees waving in a soft breeze, and buttery sunshine-filled days.

But Paraiso Mirador, a place Colombians refer to as "The Paradise," on Bogotá south side is really more like paradise lost. Inside this small swath of land more than 40,000 people are packed together.  Witchcraft and Satanism are the primary religions of choice, and gang warfare, crime and violence are regular visitors. Meanwhile, poverty is so intense that children must often choose between eating lunch or dinner - they can't have both.

Thanks to sponsorship, Compassion's New Life in Christ Social Ministry Student Center (CO-319) has become an oasis away from the city's mean streets for children living in Paraiso Mirador. Adolescents learn vocational skills to survive in their challenging community and live full lives.

Diego's Dream for Paradise

Diego Ardilla, age 14, is one of 70 youth enrolled in the center's vocational courses. Every Friday for four hours, professionally trained instructors teach vocational skills to students ages 13-16. Classes range from food preparation and health care services to cosmetology and handicrafts. Students also receive training in accounting, marketing and small business operations.

Last year, Diego took the food preparation course and learned to make yogurt, koumiss (a beverage made from cow's milk, similar to yogurt), cheeses, jellies and even pizza. "I want to have my own pizzeria when I leave Compassion's program," he says.

Girls Learn Skills, Too!

While Diego is making plans for his pizzeria, some of the girls in the life-skills training classes are learning the secrets of giving a good manicure and haircut. Teachers report the girls like to practice the various techniques they've learned on each other.

"My cousin turned 15 a few weeks ago," explains Lina Paola Amaya, age 13. "Because she was so sad she didn't have any money to celebrate, I gave her a special hairstyle and manicure that day!"

Quality Life Lessons

Once classes conclude for the semester, project staff members and the children put on a large business fair and invite their parents and neighbors. Children sell the products they make and pocket half the profits. Staff use the rest of the profits to purchase new materials for the next class.

"Our children get the tools they need to have a better quality of life," says the Project Director, Marien Rivas. Diego agrees. "We are becoming good Christian workers," he says. "And we are learning to live - finally!"

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