About La Vecina
By providing quality education, Foundation La Vecina gives the children in the district of La Boquilla, in Cartagena a chance for a better future. Combining education with psychological support, as well as with social and recreational activities and events for the whole community, Foundation La Vecina is highly committed to the development of the children and wants to give them a secure environment where they can live and learn.
La Vecina is:
“There he lies in the dark, below a statue on a busy square in the centre of Cartagena, a street-kid, at the most, 6 years old. Once in a while, the headlights of cars passing by shine on his face. Nobody stops to help him.”
Nathalie Rietman, originally from the Netherlands, was studying to be an Environmental Engineer and doing her thesis in Bogota, Colombia. Before leaving the country, she visited Cartagena for the first time, and the image of abandoned street-kids made a huge impression on her. She decided to put the environment aside and focus instead on helping these children. The children in La Boquilla neighbourhood, a poor fisherman’s community in Cartagena, don’t always have the chance to go to school. They come from difficult backgrounds and many of them have to deal daily with problems such as prostitution, crime and violence. In 2005, Nathalie founded the Dutch Foundation La Vecina, and a year later, La Vecina in Colombia. The Centro Educativo started with a building in Marlinda district in La Boquilla, with 15 kids.
After these preparations Nathalie rented a big house and opened on March 5, 2007 the La Vecina shelter, in the Marlinda district in La Boquilla, where 15 children attended school. Since then, La Vecina has moved to a new house that is more spacious and in better condition, and currently 120 kids come daily to the foundation. The significance of La Vecina is quite simple, a neighbor. Nathalie wants for these children a neighbor to whom hey can always go, someone who helps them if others are unable. La Vecina focuses on high quality and, through special programs, provides intensive support so that the children who live in marginalized conditions have a chance for a better future. Education is of crucial importance and La Vecina also emphasizes nutrition, medical and psychological counseling and recreational activities.
Nathalie: “We were very careful starting with one Colombian teacher and one classroom. We have worked hard and succeeded in becoming an accredited school. It is great to now have a full primary school with good teachers and a group of enthusiastic parents who work along with us. Now we must think about the next step: how can we help the children from the primary school to continue learning.”
La Vecina in the Netherlands:
The Dutch Foundation La Vecina’s purpose is to raise funds for projects undertaken in Colombia. It is a non-profit organization that helps the marginalised population in Cartagena, and it works solely on voluntary basis.
La Vecina in Colombia:
La Boquilla is one of the neediest sectors of this region; located in an area of difficult access and high risk of flooding during the rainy season. In addition, the lack of services such as natural gas, sewer, water or electricity, makes life in La Boquilla especially hard. The wooden houses are small and flimsy, and often suffer from heavy winds and rain. The residents of la Boquilla make their income on informal activities, mainly fishing, street vending, waiters, masons.
On the educational level, school drop outs are common among children and adolescents, due to low economic resources or parental neglect. In an underprivileged neighborhood as is La Boquilla, problems such as violence, drugs, or sexual and mental abuse are usual, and often result in behavior problems and learning difficulties. La Vecina is there to help the community, and to do its best so that the children and adolescents would have better opportunities for the future.
A fixed team of 15 employees; teachers, kitchen staff and administration, works in the La Vecina shelter. In addition, we regularly welcome Colombian and foreign volunteers to help us with various projects.