Abriendo Caminos: “Communities Saving Lives” is a program implemented in two neighborhoods—Charco Azul and Comuneros I. The goal is to contribute to the reduction of youth violence by changing the way of life that validates violence. A group of community leaders, “violence interrupters”, carry out interventions among young people. Given the proximity and positive influence between young people and their community, the violence interrupters manage to detect conflicts and negotiate them to avoid the escalation of violence. Likewise, they invite and include people from the community in educational activities that seek to transform social norms that validate violence. These two actions allow individual and collective support so that young people reduce dangerous practices and accept opportunities for social inclusion.
Since 2017, approximately 600 young people have been involved in the program, and more than 60% of them have achieved positive changes in their lives, contributing to peaceful collaboration in their communities. Abriendo Caminos has been a second chance for these young people, helping them to improve their self-confidence. Alongside the violence interrupters, the program creates goals that have allowed them to exercise their rights and duties as citizens, contributing to the development of a culture of peace. Testimonies like Pedro’s show us the profound changes that young people have experienced:
The best thing that happened to me when I entered the program is that I now have what I didn’t have before: peace. This program helped me and many more people. It impacted my life in ways I never thought of. It goes from the most important, like having peace and being able to walk through the streets calmly, to the simplest, like being able to work and having bought—not stolen—a bicycle. I feel hope. I went from believing that I had come to this world for nothing, but now I understand that I have a purpose. (Pedro’s testimony—a young man from Charco Azul)