The sprawling slum of Cazucá, in the Colombian capital of Bogota, is beset by gang activity, violence, drug abuse, teenage pregnancy and a high school dropout rate.
Over the years, thousands of Colombian villagers fleeing fighting in the countryside between the army, left-wing guerrillas and right-wing paramilitaries, have come to settle in Cazucá. The population keeps growing as migrants in search of cheap housing close to Bogota relocate there.
Living conditions are extremely tough. Many live in makeshift houses without running water or electricity. On the streets, gang leaders vie for power and control of the informal settlement, where even the police dare not go. With parents at work, children are often left unsupervised, exposing them to the dangers of street life early on.
Fundación Tiempo de Juego (TdJ) started in 2006 out of a football game. Its founder, Andres Wiesner was conducting research in Cazucá when he decided to play football with some of the local boys. It became a weekly event, attracting more and more members of the community. Two years later, the foundation was registered.
TdJ’s main goal is to offer children and young people activities to fill up their free time to keep them away from trouble on the streets.The organisation organises 15 different sports and arts activities six days of the week for Cazucá’s children including football, athletics, basketball, theatre, dance, graffiti and cinematography.
TdJ helped has transformed community spaces in Cazucá and reached thousands of beneficiaries both in the settlement and in the schools where its programmes were subsequently applied. TdJ has helped beneficiaries overcome immense challenge to make it to university. Two participants in the athletics programme competed in the Pan-American championship. The activities, particularly football, have been a huge success with the young population. Thanks to TdJ’s intervention, Cazucá’s youth have stopped looking at gang leaders as heroes and began to redefine the concept of leadership.
Photos: Fabio Cuttica/Stars Foundation