For our Director of International Programs, Luis Bourdet, and me, our trip to Colombia ended in Manizales, where we visited the last of our three affiliated projects in the country, Centro de Orientación.

Established by an order of nuns, Centro de Orientación functions as a community center to rehabilitate mothers who have fallen victim to the ravages of poverty, often having no other choice than to work on the streets of Manizales to make money.

In addition, the Center provides nutritious meals and a safe place for children to enjoy recreational activities while teaching them how to become mature, confident and educated young adults. Support from Children Incorporated sponsors ensures that the children have clothing, school supplies and food to take home each month.

Lifting women up through training

Located in the San Jose neighborhood of Manizales, the Center serves children ages 6 to 16 years old, as well as their mothers, during the weekdays.  The children attend local schools where they are taught core academic subjects such as science and math.  In the afternoons, they receive tutoring and vocational training, in areas such as hairdressing or sewing.

During the school day, the children’s mothers are taught how to use industrial sewing machines, how to make crafts to sell in local markets and how to cook — skills that they can use to obtain employment so they can support their families.

During the school day, the children’s mothers are taught how to use industrial sewing machines, how to make crafts to sell in local markets and how to cook — skills that they can use to obtain employment so they can support their families.

When Luis and I arrived at the Center, we were met by Sister Solidad, our volunteer coordinator, and her assistant, Claudia. While taking a tour of the facility, Sister Solidad explained that four Sisters live at Centro de Orientación who all work closely with the children to teach them self-worth. They encourage the children to believe in their potential to do more than just finish primary and secondary school. They also strive to help mothers pursue educational opportunities at the Center so they can support themselves and lift their families out of the impoverished situations in which they live.

Waiting to start a family

After our tour, we met with our sponsored children and their parents in the basement of the Center, where a large, open room full of plastic chairs had been arranged in a circle.

As Luis spoke with the group about their sponsorship experiences, Claudia explained to me that since Centro de Orientación has been offering its skills training programs in the community, she has noticed over the years that the younger women are waiting until they are older to have children. And when it comes to teaching their own children valuable life lessons, they are confident in explaining to them the importance of getting an education before they start a family.

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HOW DO I SPONSOR A CHILD IN COLOMBIA? 

 You can sponsor a child in Colombia in one of three ways: call our office at 1-800-538-5381 and speak with one of our staff members; email us at sponsorship@children-inc.orgor go online to our sponsorship portal, create an account, and search for a child in Colombia that is available for sponsorship.

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