|   Posted: June 14, 2023

Here are three life lessons from sponsored teenagers in Colombia who joined a youth alliance at their Compassion centers to serve their neighbors in poverty.

How Sponsorship Changed … An Entire Community

Here are three life lessons from sponsored teenagers in Colombia who joined a youth alliance at their Compassion centers to serve their neighbors in poverty.

Story and photos by Lina Marcela Alarcón Molina
a group of young adults

How can we motivate youths to be change generators in their communities?

In Medellín, Colombia, many youths are surrounded by violence, drugs, gangs and other social problems. Staff members at several Compassion centers in the city wanted to inspire young adults in the sponsorship program to be different and positively impact their communities.

They met with youths from different centers to discuss ideas in 2019. The outcome of these meetings was the Youth Alliance — a strategy to connect youths from different centers in the city and empower them to become servant leaders who contribute to the social transformation of their communities.

The Youth Alliance is led by tutor Juan Restrepo and supported by other centers’ tutors. The alliance meets regularly to encourage one another, undergo spiritual and leadership training and design activities to allow youths to serve others.

For the young people involved — and their tutors — the alliance has been life-changing. And for their communities, the impact has been transformational.

As a reminder of how your sponsorship helps equip and empower local churches and the young people you support, here are three life lessons from the Youth Alliance’s heart to yours.

1. Love God and Spread His Love

The Youth Alliance’s central purpose is to take the message of God’s love to their communities. In 2020, several youths from the alliance received spiritual leadership training and began to train others at their local churches.

As their leadership skills and faith grow stronger, these passionate young people are sharing God’s love with others through church meetings, street ministry and more.

a young man praying

Samuel, pictured above, is 18 years old. In 2020 he attended a Youth Alliance meeting even though he didn’t clearly understand what he was walking into. However, after becoming part of this initiative, his life has changed, and he is growing in his spiritual leadership.

“God called me to work with youth, then joining the Youth Alliance was an open door for me,” says Samuel. “I used to be quiet, and I was not good at making friends. I did not have a leadership role at my local church. However, the Youth Alliance helped break my mental barriers and allowed me to participate in different events and leadership training. Then, at my local church, we passed from not having a youth group to having one mainly composed of youths from the center — and I am leading it!”

Samuel is bold and confident to share his faith, even in unusual places. Visiting a drug rehab center is one of the activities youths enjoy the most as part of their spiritual work. They go there to spend time, fellowship with others, listen to stories and share God’s love. Those visits make them feel blessed but also allow them to bless others.

“I had the opportunity to talk to a person who needed to be heard. It was a challenge. I talked to him, gave him advice and prayed for him. It was a genuine moment,” Samuel shares.

People in drug rehab centers have great spiritual and emotional needs, and it is a big challenge for the Youth Alliance to support them. It is something we must do.

2. Serve and Love Your Neighbor

The Youth Alliance aims to inspire youths to use their abilities and knowledge to serve others.

One recent activity was delivering food baskets to an impoverished neighborhood in the city. Youths used some funds the center had budgeted for them to bless others. Tutors and youths walked around the community, delivering hope in the shape of food baskets for people in need. People who received those were happy and grateful.

Another service opportunity was a campaign about caring for God’s creation. Youths prepared a performance to make people more aware of the damage humans can cause to the environment and how to better care for creation. To finish the event, they gave away plants to inspire their audience to care for the earth.

3 teenage girls hold plants

But the Youth Alliance is not just focused on those events. They aim to create a culture of servant leadership in which young people engage in daily acts of love and service.

Youths lead all the activities we make in the Youth Alliance,” says Juan, the Youth Alliance coordinator. “They can serve others with their talents and knowledge. There are many needs in society and the families around, so they should consider how they can impact their communities with the love of God.

3. We Are Stronger Together

Jhoselyn is 17 years old. She says that in the past she was resistant to attending youth events at her Compassion center. She preferred to spend time with younger children, as she considered them more honest, fun and enjoyable than many people her age.

But she noticed that when she needed advice or wanted to talk about her thoughts with someone else, it would have been good to have a friend who understood her and could give wise advice based on what God would like for her to do.

So when she was invited to attend the Youth Alliance, she went along.

teenagers carry food baskets

“I received an invitation from the center to attend a youth training,” says Jhoselyn, pictured above carrying a food pack. “I hesitated about going there, but finally, I decided to go. When I arrived, I saw some youths from the center I grew up with in the classes. I felt so comfortable. They made me feel at peace, safe and loved.

“It was spiritual leadership training, and some days later, we met youths from other Compassion centers in the city who were having the same training. In the beginning, I was afraid of sharing with so many people; however, they were so kind, humble and smiling that I was happy to be there.”

After receiving leadership training, Jhoselyn became an active part of the Youth Alliance. Being part of the team helped her to see her fellow teenagers from a new perspective and recognize that she could learn from them and serve them with her abilities.

She now trains other youths in the alliance and is committed to spreading God's love to other youths.

A Growing Community

4 teens hold posters with encouraging words

The Youth Alliance has now grown to communities beyond Medellín. Youths like 18-year-old Hellen, pictured above on the left, are more committed to attending the centers and participating in the activities. They have found in the alliance a group that values and listens to them — and a place where they belong.

“The Youth Alliance was a lifeguard for me,” says Hellen. “I was lost; I had no idea what to do with my life, but they were my support. The Youth Alliance is where you can find people who embrace you and give you the courage to follow your dreams. For me, it is a community, emotional support. It is great to see how the Youth Alliance impacts youths’ lives.”

Write a Quick Letter

a teenage girl holds a letter from her sponsor

Your words could help inspire the young person you sponsor to change their community!

a teenage girl holds a letter from her sponsor