Proyecto Cambio (Project Change)

Students from the junior-high participating in an activity during the violence prevention workshop.

The Foundation for Family Development (FUNDEFAM) has long desired to work in partnership with local public schools and so we were thrilled with the recent opportunity to enter  the junior high school located just a few blocks away from our building.  We facilitated an 8 week violence prevention program called Proyecto Cambio (Project Change) with two groups of 12-13 year olds, each group consisting of 40 students. Claudia, the program director, and I facilitated one of the groups.  Last Thursday was our last class, and we had a lot of fun with the students and invited them all to participate in the youth group at FUNDEFAM.

This was one of the most exciting and at the same time difficult groups I have ever facilitated.  Many of the young teenagers come from the marginalized communities that we serve at FUNDEFAM, where they are surrounded by violence.  We have a lot of respect for the teachers working with over-filled classrooms and difficult group dynamics; it was evident they were under-resourced and lacked training as they often resorted to yelling at the kids in order to “control” them.  The students are not used to participating in the classroom, so when we asked them open questions or divided them into groups for an activity, it was difficult for them and for us to know how to encourage them to share their opinions and respect one another.

We even witnessed violence among some of the students, as they’d kick each other under their desks, poke one another, call each other names, bully certain kids.  When we started talking about boyfriend/girlfriend relationships, there was a lot of smart aleck comments from the boys to the girls.

One in every three romantic relationships in junior/senior high school is abusive.  And, with many of the students coming from communities where they witness violence, either in their homes or in the streets, there is an even greater need to work for peace in their relationships.  Some have dropped out of school because they’ve been threatened by the gang members to join them.

There were times when Claudia and I would get discouraged and wonder if all this work was really worth it.  We usually felt this way after a class where we discussed difficult topics, like sexuality or conflict, and there were so many disruptions from the students that it seemed like what we were doing wasn’t getting through.  However, there were other times when we would see a light in a student’s eyes showing us he understood what we were talking about or a student would speak and share her opinion boldly with the class.

Abigail reading "Yo Soy Especial", with Claudia

One of my favorite times during the 8 week course was when Abigail, a teenager from FUNDEFAM’s youth group who helped us facilitate the class, read the poem “Yo Soy Especial” (I am special) to the class.  All 40 students were listening carefully and were hearing the good news that God had created them special, unique, with great worth and a purpose in this life.

I am thankful for the opportunity to have been able to participate in this project, and I pray that the door will remain open to FUNDEFAM to continue offering this course to other groups at the junior high.  I also trust that God used this time to plant some seeds of dignity and worth in each student that one day will produce more peaceful and healthy relationships with their family and friends and within their communities.

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6 thoughts on “Proyecto Cambio (Project Change)”

  1. Erika – thanks so much for sharing(!) What a challenging and wonderful ministry; it would be a tough one for anybody, and you guys hung in through it all … God has honored that in both your ministry and the lives of these kids. They have been very fortunate to have you in their lives!

    Very kind regards,
    Randy & Pam

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  2. Hello,

    I am thrilled to know that this type of ministry is going on in your area. One of the areas that AVA (Advocacy for Victims of Abuse) in the Covenant Churches has not done a lot of work is in the area of teenage violence. I applaud your work and wonder if this is something that can be shared with others who are working to end violence in our communities. I am scheduled to go to Colombia in November to do some AVA training and I am sure that they would be interested in this type of ministry. Sounds like you and the Sanders in Colombia should connect.

    May the Lord continue to bless you both. Also, may I use your piece for our Summer AVA Newsletter?


    Yvonne DeVaughn
    AVA Director

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  3. Yvonne,
    We would love to connect more with you and with what is going on in Colombia. Please feel free to use this article in your newsletter. The Foundation for Family Development (FUNDEFAM) just received a grant from the government to offer violence prevention courses to five more groups at the same junior high this next school year! My husband and I have moved to Oaxaca, so we are no longer working directly with FUNDEFAM. If you would like be in contact or learn more about this program, please contact Covenant missionary Patty Restrepo who wrote the curriculum and continues to work directly with this project. Blessings, Erika

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