Colombia. A space with open doors

One of the missionary activity priorities of the Comboni Missionaries in Colombia is the care and accompaniment of young Afro-Americans who live in situations of marginalization. The Afro Centre of Tumaco is perhaps the best example of this commitment.

Both in Tumaco and in the peripheral neighbourhoods of Bogota and Cali, Comboni missionaries support youth to break the vicious circle of misery in which they find themselves trapped. There are already many young people who have grown up in the Comboni world via missionary animation, catechetical groups and youth associations and have become integral people of faith and professionals with a deep sense of community, as well as a strong civic responsibility.

The Afro Centre of Tumaco, which is twelve years old, is perhaps the best example of this commitment. The initiative began in the Nuevo Milenio neighbourhood, of the Comboni parish of the Resurrection.

At first, it was about a handful of children who, with the support of the missionary community, met in their homes and organized a youth group to discuss social issues, plan activities for the neighbourhood and share community life.

The dynamic was gaining strength and more and more young people became involved, and since the founding of the Afro Centre in 2011, there has been the birth and growth of various children’s and youth, artistic, and sports groups.

One of these groups is Descuadrate, which is dedicated to different social topics and commitments. From an embodied faith and with an open and critical mind, its members analyse the reality of the municipality and the country, organize cleaning days, and help people in need, in addition to planning recreational activities with other young people.

In this group, unlike the municipal average, the high academic level of its members is striking, as well as the very low percentage of teenage pregnancies. All this is the result of a training process whose purpose is consciousness-raising, empowering life projects with a strong sense of community.

Beyond the different groups, the Afro Centre is a space with doors open for the entire community. There are many children who still do not belong to any of their initiatives but come to seek help with some homework, to ask for advice or simply to spend some time in a protected, happy and welcoming environment.

This is how for example, the toy library was born, with games and toys for both young and old. One of the most serious problems faced by the young people of Tumaco and the peripheries of the big cities is the lack of opportunity for a good education.

When they finish high school, very few are able to continue with higher education due to their families’ lack of financial resources. For this reason, the Comboni missionaries have also established a support system – study scholarships, subsidies for lodging and food, and even transportation aid – for Afro-Colombian university students.

These young people are a great sign of hope for the whole of the Afro-descendant population of Colombia, especially for children and adolescents, who see in them a role model to carve out a better future during such adverse circumstances. (Francisco Carrera)

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