My Life in Focus
Summary of the Project
Location: Bogotá, Colombia
My Life in Focus is a photography project involving children and youths from the conflict-ridden Cazucá neighborhood, an impoverished slum located in the south of Colombia's capital of Bogota.
The Cazucá neighborhood continues to be recognized as a “red zone” due to ongoing conflict between different illegal armed groups and their activities including drug and arm trafficking, extortion racket, forced displacement and recruitment of minors. Children and youths living in the area not only lack basic education opportunities but also are vulnerable to drug abuse and recruitment by these groups.
By offering a photography workshop as Art Therapy, our aspiration is to provide a tool of expression and healing for traumatized children, assuring their attendance as well as their performance at school, build leadership skills by boosting their self-esteem and providing them with hope. This way we want to give them the chance to improve their quality of life and help create an environment fostering positive alternatives to the conflict.
The neighborhood of Cazucá falls under the administration of the Soacha municipality but is geographically located in the eastern outskirts of Colombia’s capital of Bogota.
The community, which is largely made up from informal settlements, has been growing since 1975 and is currently inhabited by about 70.000 people, roughly 10.000 of them being Internally Displaced who fled from various Colombian regions that have been affected by the country’s ongoing armed conflict.
With such a high number of Internally Displaced, the community is also marked by extreme poverty and poor access to public services like education facilities and basic sanitation. This adds to the high vulnerability of its population caused by the activities of different illegal armed groups in the area including drug and arms trafficking and the recruitment of minors.
Marginalized children and youths
Like in many “red zones” like this throughout Colombia, one of the most vulnerable groups among the population is the one of marginalized children and youths, not only are lacking education opportunities and in some cases even basic nutrition, but also being at risk for drug abuse, becoming victims of different forms of violence or getting involved in gang activities.
Marginalized youth, particularly in conflict-ridden places like this, face unique economic and social obstacles; flawed or interrupted education, language barriers, a lack of skills for employment and often discrimination and exclusionary social environments. These factors put these young people at a serious disadvantage in terms of their individual and collective development.
My Life in Focus is a photography program designed to enhance the education levels of children and youths affected by extreme violence, poverty and forced displacement in the Cazucá neighborhood by building up their self-esteem, fostering their productivity and creativity.
The project, which is running for one year, involves up to 80 participants with their age ranging between 9 to 14 years.
The yearly workshops are divided into trimesters with 20 participants per term, being supervised by seven instructors during 12 consecutive Sundays.
At the end of each trimester, the children’s works are published and exhibited for their families and communities to see, providing them with a sense of achievement. This way, they have the opportunity to recognize their own creative capacities with should empower them to overcome certain obstacles implicated in their conflict affected environments.