By: Juan Camilo Cock M. Executive Director Alvaralice Foundation
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought setbacks in several aspects of human development in Colombia. The necessary measures to save lives have had and will have a major impact on the income, education, and the mental health of a significant portion of the population. According to Fedesarrollo’s calculations, the number of people living in poverty could increase by six million and the poverty level could reach 49%.
However, the effects of the pandemic will be uneven. And these effects are currently hitting some segments of the population harder than others. Clearly, children and youth have been particularly affected. For children living in poverty, virtual education is almost impossible. The months of quarantine will lead to a widening gap in education between high and low-income households. In many neighborhoods, schools, libraries, and parks—which have been closed for months—are essential spaces for learning and socializing, but are also safe places for children who grow up in violent environments.
The gap in the unemployment rate among young people and the population in general has increased and is a serious concern. Between September and November, youth unemployment in Colombia’s main cities was 25.7%, which is almost nine points higher than the global unemployment rate. Finding work now, for young people without a college degree, has become even more difficult with the pandemic.
With this in mind, the work of the Alvaralice Foundation to help generate opportunities for low-income children and youth will now be more important than ever. We will remain diligent in this endeavour by continuing to support our different projects and initiatives.
The Tecnocentro Cultural Somos Pacífico has made an enormous effort to open its doors this year and has since February offered art, music, dance, and technology programs. This is one of the few—if not the only—open spaces in Potrero Grande that offers training activities for boys, girls, and families, somewhat mitigating the closure of other institutions. Additionally, Rumbo Joven, our employability training program, focused on finding formal jobs for young people, is currently recruiting in order to start training fifty youths in 2021.
The Abriendo Caminos (Cure Violence) project is working with youth that are at greater risk of committing violent actions or being linked to criminal groups. The Alvaralice Foundation is working with this group to develop small productive initiatives to help them with their basic daily sustenance and to show their communities the positive changes in their lives.
The Foundation has also been working with the Mayor’s Office of Cali, Propacífico, and various civil society stakeholders, in facilitating an inter-institutional working committee for young people, within the framework of economic and social recovery in three areas: 1) the generation of income through employment training and entrepreneurship, 2) the strengthening of youth organizations and leadership, and 3) the attention to mental health and violence prevention. In 2021, the Foundation also hopes to work alongside ACDI/VOCA in the “Youth Resilience Activities” project to strengthen youth capacity to overcome many of these challenges.
Some of these actions and activities are small, but can have significant impact in neighborhoods with high levels of poverty and violence. However, we have learned from our experiences of inter-institutional alliances that education and supportive community networks can significantly contribute to the reactivation policies at the city and regional level, and further benefit those who need it most and who have been hit the hardest by the pandemic. As the economist Mauricio Cabrera states, “The best reactivation policies are those that boost growth, but at the same time help alleviate poverty, reduce unemployment, and reduce inequality.”