During the COVID-19 public health emergency, the Abriendo Caminos – (Cure Violence) team has adapted its methodology to continue to decrease violent incidents while responding to emerging needs of the neighborhoods of Charco Azul and Comuneros I, where the project has operated for the past two years.
One of the new initiatives was the creation of an urban garden in the Centro Piloto de Aprendizaje (CEPIA), located in Brisas de Comuneros, led by Marcial Quiñonez, a project outreach worker and “interrupter.” Marcial Quiñonez and other at-risk youths from these marginalized neighborhoods, started working on this project two months ago. With the planting of the garden, participants connected with their roots, given that many of them come from farming families from the Pacific coastal region of Colombia. Furthermore, with this activity, young people are using their free time productively in a conflict-free space.
The garden has allowed participants to take on responsibilities while developing and strengthening skills, such as teamwork and a sense of belonging and cooperation. Participants voluntarily contribute their time, resources, dedication, and patience within a flexible work schedule. The idea has taken shape day by day with the expectation of transforming the CEPIA with vegetation and turning it into an oasis with lots of green spaces.
Through this initiative, young people committed to creating a conflict resolution strategy within a restorative justice framework, which promotes the transformation of spaces and the creation of new relationships within the community. This process has been well received, as the residents have witnessed the participants’ commitment to give something back to those they have hurt in the past. We hope that this garden can be replicated in other neighborhoods, bringing sustainability and resilience in times of crisis.