Foundation La Vecina has a large number of projects that have, over the years, become very successful. We constantly start with new projects and new ways to help the community in La Boquilla.
Basic primary education, nutrition and medical care
Foundation La Vecina provides education since 2007, in its school building called Centro Educativo, in La Boquilla, Cartagena. Currently about 115 children come to school daily and have classes in groups of 15 students. Foundation La Vecina has been recognized by the Colombian Ministry of Education as an official school for all grades.
Parents pay a symbolical amount for school fees and a uniform. If they are not able to pay this small contribution, La Vecina make arrangements for a payment in kind. In addition to classes all children get breakfast, warm lunch and a healthy snack. A psychologist who is employed at La Vecina accompanies the parents and the children and gives support when needed. She makes home visits and maintains contacts in the area and with other organizations. Pursuing with this policy, the school remains aware of the special needs of the residents of the district, and can prevent them. As a result, there is practically no more malnutrition amongst the school children of La Boquilla.
Moreover, all children are checked twice a year by a doctor and a dentist. Medication is provided by the school when needed, and is free of charge.
Homework assistance and tutoring
On average 11 pupils with learning disabilities come from other schools in Marlinda and Bogotá districts in La Boquilla to get extra help with homework. La Vecina is the only educational institution in the area of La Boquilla offering it. The children get personalized help based on the specific disability they have, and the teacher tries to bring them at the desired level within one year.
Meals, psychosocial counseling and medical checks play a big role as well, helping the kid to get into good physical and mental condition. Once the kid has achieved the desired level, they will stop the homework assistance and keep following classes with their peers at the local school.
Support in transition to secondary education
In December 2014, the first 12 students graduated from La Vecina. To help them in the transition to secondary school La Vecina has teamed up with a high school called Rochy. This school is located in a different area of La Boquilla and La Vecina bought a bus to arrange transportation to the school.
In the afternoon the children benefit from homework assistance at La Vecina. The children who graduated in 2015, were given this opportunity of extra support.
La Vecina supports each year 20 mothers that live in the district and provide day care for in total 240 infants. The Foundation organizes workshops in teaching and social care, and provides them with material support such as sleeping mats or educational materials, papers, notebooks and pencils.
Since early 2014, Foundation La Vecina offers a sports program for 22 boys, who are part of the Funvecinos football team. Kids from La Vecina primary school, as well as other children from the neighborhood, can join. The boys team practice twice a week and have Saturday a match against another team. The foundation gives them an outfit, shoes and training materials. In addition, the boys have workshops on social skills such as cooperation and sexual education, contributing to their well-being and healthy growth. Recently Funvecinos was recognized as an official football club and the team can play in the Colombian football league. For some of the boys, the football club is a springboard for professional football career; recently one of the boys was selected to a big football club. Moreover, often when the boys get good at football, they quit using drugs.
In 2016 the Funvecinos project was opened up to 22 girls, in order to give equal opportunities to girls and boys. Footballer Santiago Arias who plays with PSV (Netherlands) and the Colombian national team pledged ambassador of the Funvecions team. La Vecina received an artificial turf field as a donation from the Netherlands and is now looking for a suitable piece of land. Thereafter can the construction of an artificial grass pitch start.
Ritmos de Esperanza: cultural project
The aim of the cultural project is to familiarize the children with traditional dance and music that comes from Cartagena. Popular Colombian dance styles are often very sexual and provocative, which associates them with prostitution and violence. Through the music and dance classes at La Vecina, the learn to think of dance as a representation of their culture and to express their body in a respectful way, which also stimulates their self-esteem.
Activities for adolescents
In 2015 La Vecina was approached by a representative from the district to organize activities for young people who hang out on street gangs. Through group discussions and other activities these guys have more self-esteem and respect for themselves and others, thus they don’t choose the wrong road. La Vecina works on this project together with Fundación Mi Sangre and Fundación Social Revivir. In 2016 we will continue.
English Helper: a program for English classes
Children from the highest three classes get 5 hours a week of English classes. English helper is a virtual program where children learn English in groups; listening, reading and repeating words and sentences. The project is implemented with the help of local volunteers and with the support of a coordinator from Barranquilla. Learning English has a crucial importance in La Vecina’s study plan. With this intensive program the children acquire high level English skills that will help them if after further education they wish to work in industries such as tourism.
La Vecina is constantly working on improving the quality of education. With help from the University CUC, we have objectives, vision and principles (the curriculum in Colombia is called the PEI) that are revised to meet the rules applicable for education in Colombia. We also organize additional training for the teachers.
A part of this project is also the completion of a student tracking system. In 2016 the Foundation will appoint a Colombian school principal. This is necessary because the project has become very large and also in order to let the director Nathalie Rietman focus on other subjects.
The foundation has constantly a large amount of short-time projects going on. Right now we are expanding the IT room by purchasing 10 additional computers and computer tables. The room is now air conditioned and has improved lighting.
We have also started the construction of sinks in the patio and we regularly organise visits for the children to interesting places in Cartagena.