Guest Blog: A short visit to Guacamayal
Bethany shares her experience of visiting Guacamayal, Colombia and meeting the children at our Emmanuel Care Centre:
Stand by Me supports a project in Guacamayal, which is situated between Santa Marta and Barranquilla in the North of Colombia and I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to visit for 5 days. I have been living in Ecuador for 2 years so the journey was not too long, but the contrast, between the 15-20 degree heat in Quito, to the 45 degree heat with 100% humidity on the Caribbean coast of Colombia, was stark.
Guacamayal is only 45 minutes away from the city of Santa Marta, but really, it is worlds away. The town is very poor with most families living in homes with 1 or 2 rooms. I was told by one of the teachers that it is very difficult to get a good education here and most of the children do not leave Guacamayal, as people finish school, then work on the fincas (banana plantations) and many of the girls get pregnant at a very young age. Furthermore, many of the children have complex behavioural needs and crave attention irrespective of whether that is positive or negative.
The Stand by Me project, offers food, love, care, a space to do their homework and a space for children to play. This was something that really struck me, as in Guacamayal, there is very little outside space for children to play in. In the main plaza, there is one ‘play area’, which is actually an outdoor gym. The centre provides the children with a space to play, have fun and to be children. I have never before seen a child happily sit and complete the same puzzle over and over again. It was quite magical to watch the excitement on her face.
One of the most joyous experiences was meeting the team who are led by the wonderful Bibiana. Bibiana is a truly inspirational person who is so hard working and dedicated to showing love to everyone. Every person that works at Stand by Me, Colombia has a deep love for Jesus and cares wholeheartedly for the children. The children also clearly love the staff and this was made evident, as when the children rush through the gate, they come to every member of staff whether that be the teachers, cooks, cleaning staff and give them a big hug with broad smiles on their faces. In Guacamayal, it is a hard days work, with large classes, children with behavioural difficulties, extreme temperatures and limited resources, but the staff work tirelessly and all love what they do!