Pueblo Viejo is one of the sprawling shanty towns found in the Department of Magdalena, on Colombia’s Atlantic Coast. It’s an area that experiences extreme poverty. The community is made up of several different ethnic groups, which at times can lead to tension and in-fighting. Around 80 percent live in very poor conditions and the remaining 20 percent in extreme poverty.
Like many of these impoverished communities, Pueblo Viejo has little in the way of public services. Drinking water is a scarcity, no drains or adequate sanitation, no fixed gas system. The electricity service is completely inadequate, and often the supply is lost for days on end.
The unemployment rate is very high in this sector with many having diversified their skills to become street sellers, or start micro-enterprise schemes from home. However, despite these commendable innovations, most earn less than $2.00 USD a day – poverty never seems far away!
Alcoholism, and drug abuse are rampant in this community. All these negative circumstances often produce a sense of hopelessness, where, as always, the young children seem to suffer most.
Pueblo Viejo is also a breeding ground for child labor and child soldiers. Children as young as 5 years old can be sent out on the streets alone to sell items or beg for food and money, placing them in extreme danger and at risk.
Local paramilitary and Marxist rebel groups, historically, have recruited from this sector. Teenage pregnancy is common, with girls as young as 12 years old having babies.
It’s against this background that Oasis of Hope Charity set up a project in 2009. The aim was to help address the poverty and sense of hopelessness that seemed to be so prominent there.
David Taylor visited Pueblo Viejo in September, 2009. After witnessing first-hand the appalling conditions families with young children were living in, he was moved by compassion to attempt to do something to help.
He met with a young couple, Aris & Nayibis, who had a desire to help feed the children in the community. A feeding project was started in their small rented house. The house quickly became inadequate for the overwhelming need – children were literally lining up outside to be fed. Something had to be done and soon after a plot of land was purchased nearby, a building was constructed and today more than 150 children attend the preschool and feeding program.
IN PUEBLO VIEJO – OASIS OF HOPE CHARITY – REALLY ARE PUTTING LOVE INTO ACTION