Hope in a Gang Zone

Hope in a Gang Zone

By: Luz Adriana Anibal Lara, and Maria Marin, Colombia Field Communication Specialist   |   Posted: November 04, 2009

Young girl grows up in an area devastated by violence, but determines to choose a different path.
Leany believes that if you fight for what you want, guided by God, you can obtain your goals.

Leany spent almost all her childhood and adolescence inside her house. She moved to Medellin, Colombia, when she was 10, a city that experienced the violence of a cruel drug war in which thousands of innocent people lost their lives.

In 1976 Medellí® began to be the center of drug dealers for Pablo Escobar Gaviria, a leader of the gang who controlled over 80 percent of the cocaine trade in the world in the late 1980s. That same year the cartel murdered a presidential candidate, among other national figures, and set off various car bombs that killed many innocent people.

When Leany arrived in Medellin, the social conditions were going through one of the most difficult periods ever. Insecurity and violence devastated the area and was visible in the streets where she grew up.

"When I was little, I saw how they killed a man next to my home; there were years in which they killed people as a sport," explains Leany.

Finally in 1993, police killed Pablo Escobar, leaving the organization without the leader that had united the cartel. The slums of Medellí® had been ruled by gangs and violent organizations, but for the last 10 years the government has restored these areas, including Leany's neighborhood.

Choosing Not to Settle

Despite their surroundings, Leany's parents always tried to give her the best possibilities they could. Their incomes have been variable since they work as pastors in a local church in their neighborhood. For this reason, Compassion has supported Leany since she was 7 years old and she was registered in the local Compassion-assisted child development center, enabling her to dream about a different future.

Leany's dream of studying in college was a dream her parents thought they couldn't make come true, but when Leany finished her school, her desire to become a professional motivated her to work in a 24-hour supermarket, where she worked from 2:00 p.m. to 12:00 a.m. to make the money for the first semester of college.

This 20-year-old's goal was to help her family improve their situation, which motivated her in the hard routine of work and school. When she got to the second semester, she couldn't work anymore, but her mom told her they couldn't pay for her to continue attending classes.

It was at this time that Leany learned about Compassion's Leadership Development Program (LDP), which began accepting students that year. She applied for and was accepted in the program to study farm management.

Plans to Prosper, Plans of Hope

Leany received a lovely sponsor who gave her the opportunity of constructing her dreams for the future. Now she is in her fifth semester, and new opportunities have opened for her.

This program is not only a way of funding studies, but also accompanies the students in their personal process of growth as they learn to become servant leaders in their countries. They will be the future leaders of their communities, being examples of love, development and maturity in faith.

"My sponsor is Jenny. She lives in United States and I'm able to say she is my friend. We have a great relationship and a deep trust. I'm really grateful for what she does for me. She blesses me in a special way, giving me the amazing opportunity of being an LDP student. She encouraged me, I feel pleased she says she is proud of me and proud of what I'm studying, because many people tell me this is not a good career or a good plan for my life," expressed Leany, when they ask her about the program.

Compassion has made a huge difference in Leany's life because now her family knows about Jesus. She has grown spiritually through Compassion and now understands that as a leader, her basic principle is to serve, just like Jesus did.

Everyone knows Leany as an enterprising woman. Currently she sells blouses for income and helps her family with the extra expenses.

"I love selling, I know I'm really good at it, I love helping people find the right size or the color they want, and I can change the blouses one or more times until the customer is satisfied".

What Matters the Most

Leany gets up at 4:30 in the morning. She wakes up praising the Lord for the new day, and hurries to get ready for her first class at 6:00 am. She has her personal time with God, where she loves to worship Him, talk about her concerns, ask Him for forgiveness, and put in His hand the activities she plans for the day.

Her relationship with God is personal. The love that she experiences from her heavenly Father allows her have a plan for the future in which she will share with others the opportunities she has received, which is her principal goal.

Leany believes that if you fight for what you want, guided by God, you can obtain your goals and make your dreams come true. More than money, the Leadership Development Program is now an opportunity where she has developed areas as a person.

This is only the beginning of her plans. She wants to have a family. She would like to have a business of agricultural products. She wants to help her community to empower new generations that can construct a healthy and peaceful environment.

Her most important goal is to have a sponsored child herself who can experience what she did during all these years.

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