Fifty years, fifty countries: Colombia

ChildrenConflictViolence against Women50 CountriesColombia

To mark 50 years of Tearfund, we’re sharing about 50 countries where we’ve worked, celebrating God’s provision and power to transform, and praying for each of these nations. This week we’re in Colombia.

Home to Latin America’s longest-running civil conflict, Colombia is a nation where children face huge challenges. As a result of disrupted education and poverty, a large number of children live on the streets and child labour is common.

Tearfund has been working in Colombia since 1980, with a strong focus on helping vulnerable children.

Out of options
At the age of ten, Jhonatan* faced a bleak future. Following his friends into a life of gangs, drugs and alcohol seemed his only option.

Thousands of children and young people live in slums on the edge of towns and cities, prone to landslides or flooding, with few amenities. Unemployment is high and young people are at risk of drug and alcohol addiction, teenage pregnancy, family breakdown and domestic violence.

Drug-dealing armed gangs rule in these areas, and children as young as seven are encouraged to join these gangs as a way of keeping themselves safe in their neighbourhoods.

What choice did Jhonatan really have?

Fortunately, before it was too late, Jhonatan heard about a sports programme he could join.

The Sport for Life project was started by Tearfund partner Red Viva, and later transferred to another partner, CORSOC. By providing a safe environment to play sport, learn about Jesus and develop essential life-skills, these sports programmes help vulnerable children and young people to make wise choices.

A different path
Jhonatan (now 13) says, ‘I feel lucky to be in this team, which is also my family. The football club has given me the opportunity to practise the sport I like the best, to make friends and to learn about God and his plan for my life.

In partnership with local churches, the sports clubs offer weekly football coaching sessions, as well as ongoing mentoring and support. The children and young people learn teamwork, leadership, discipline, and much more, giving them a valuable foundation.

‘In these years I have seen a change in myself,’ says Jhonatan. ‘I am no longer as rude to my parents – I have learned to respect them, and also the teachers. I have received training in principles and values that will make me a champion, not only in football, but in life.’

He is so grateful for being offered a different path and looks forward to being able to help other children like himself.

Broader challenges
Although Colombia is developing rapidly, almost 30 per cent of the population still live below the poverty line. During the conflict, thousands of women have suffered from sexual violence, leaving a generation of women scarred emotionally and physically.

All this is worsened by Colombia’s vulnerability to natural disasters; more than 11 million people are affected each year by droughts, earthquakes and flooding.

As well as improving the lives of children, Tearfund is assisting many women who have experienced sexual abuse and also provides emergency support in the aftermath of severe flooding.

Join us in praying for this nation.

If you'd like to know more please visit the Colombia country page.

Please pray

  • Pray for peace in Colombia, for an end to the conflict and violence that have characterised so much of its recent history. Pray for those who have been affected by the violence, that they might find support and restoration.
  • Praise God for the many children and young people who have been given new opportunities through the sports clubs. Pray that they continue making good decisions and can be a positive influence in their families, schools and neighbourhoods.
  • Lift up the local church and our partners as they support local communities in finding solutions to the challenges they face. Pray for physical and spiritual protection for those working in these areas.

* Name changed to protect identity

Cheryl Bannatyne

Cheryl is a copywriter for Tearfund where she gets to share the great stories of lives being transformed around the world.