50 years of continous armed conflict and drug-trafficking in Colombia have put thousands of children at the risk of being illegally recruited by guerrilla groups, sexually exploited or killed. Through their activities, James and Eliana prevent vulnerable children from falling into a life of gangs, drugs and crime.

QUICK FACTS

James, a human rights activist in Medellín, and Eliana, an educator in anti-personal mines protection, are implementing programmes for children at risk.

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James Zuluaga Arango and  Eliana Lucia Herrera Aguirre

Project: Colombia, July 2015 – April 2016
Parent Organisation: ICRC
Born: 1987
Current work: Corporación Pazifistas

Project Colombia | Facts
5
Peer Young Coaches
210
Benefiting Children

MY STORY

James: I grew up with a single mother and 7 siblings in the mountainous “Comuna 13” in Medellín, situated by the waste dump. I often hung out in the streets with other fatherless boys looking for things to do. Many ended up in criminal groups and 90% of them were killed. My mother was working day and night and thanks to her I entered primary school. There I also joined social and cultural activities which took me on a more positive path. In Comuna 13, there are invisible demarcation lines between gang zones, which divide the community. You can be killed just for crossing them. However, we discovered that football lowered the rivalries. People crossed the lines and the games enabled social gathering. Out of this, we initiated a school for vulnerable youth and kids in Comuna 13 which remains one of the most affected community by the armed conflict.

Eliana: James initiated a sports school called “Tejiendo Talentos”, now called “Corporación Pazifistas”. I joined his work in 2014. Our school focusses especially on kids at risk.

James: We don’t have funding and working with these kids is not easy. They come from a difficult background. They arrive in ripped clothes and flip flops, sometimes they don’t have eaten the whole day. 

Eliana: But they often have an over boarding, sometimes violent energy. It’s important that they focus their energy on playing. We use football as a tool to work with them and teach them to deal with conflicts. We want to contribute to the peace building process in Colombia at a local level and work on the solution of small conflicts that potentially grow and affect the whole population.

James: We managed to help a lot of youth and children through football so that they don’t enter criminal gangs, get sexually abused or consume drugs. I love what I learned as a Young Coach. It has changed my way of thinking and acting. I now talk in a positive way to kids and introduce new activities and techniques to this community. I believe that in each training I now bring a lot of joy to each boy and girl. It has become very important to offer the children moments of pleasure and fun. These moments are essential for them, they will stay with them for their whole life and help them grow as a person.”

Young Coaches

Our Young Coaches are community leaders and role models in less privileged societies. They commit themselves to support the children of their communities by conveying important social topics (conflict resolution, inclusion, HIV prevention, etc.) through football. Each of the Young Coaches represents a unique personal story.