Colombia – September 12 2019

Children empowering children: Amelia and Angela pay it forward

Now that sisters Amelia and Angela have access to education, they act as community advocates to empower other children in Uribia, Colombia.

“It is hard leaving the place where you were born, raised and grew up,” says 17-year-old Amelia. Luckily, Amelia's educational opportunities give her hope for the future.

Three years ago, Amelia and her 16-year-old sister, Angela, fled Venezuela to start a new life in Uribia, Colombia. Their parents and five younger siblings were already in Colombia, desperately awaiting the girls’ arrival. They live with four other Venezuelan families—26 people total—in a small, cramped house. The sisters' family of nine all lives in a single room. 

As is common among Venezuelan migrants in the area, Amelia’s and Angela’s parents struggle to support them. Their mother is unemployed and their father finds occasional jobs as a construction worker. Fortunately, the family is a beneficiary of the SOS Children’s Villages Emergency Response Program, which finally gives the children access to school and to our SOS Child-Friendly Space. Amelia and Angela were not able to go to school until this year due to lack of space in the educational institutions in the area—but now, the sisters are outstanding students at the top of their classes!

At the SOS Child-Friendly Space, we help children build self-confidence through life skills training, advocacy and leadership coaching, individualized mentorship and community engagement. SOS social workers teach Amelia, Angela and approximately 30 other youth about issues like gender equality, discrimination, violence and multiculturalism. Then, these youth leaders use creative activities like songs, dances, dramatization—even mime!—to teach these critical topics to other children.

The aim of this initiative is to empower young advocates like Amelia and Angela so they can then empower younger children in the community. The young advocates also encourage other families and children in the area to participate in these activities. This helps create a support network with the growing number of migrant families coming from neighboring Venezuela.

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“We see these young advocates as one of us," says SOS social worker Estefania Jaramillo. "We prepare them because they know the community, its dynamics and its values. They are the first to approach the families, they invite the children to the SOS Child-Friendly Spaces and then we visit the families again to reinforce their work.”

Amelia and Angela love being community advocates. Empowering other children gives them hope. “I also feel it helps me to prepare for when I go to university and become a professional,” Angela explains.

Being educated allows the sisters to dream

As the eldest sisters, Amelia and Angela are aware of their family's challenges. They see their parents worry when they can't afford food or water: luxuries in Colombia's dry lands. But both girls have very clear goals to support their family in the future. Amelia wants to be a bacteriologist to investigate and cure diseases, while Angela aims for a law career. They hope to one day buy a more comfortable house for their large family. "With this experience, we have learned to stay together as a family," Amelia says. "Family is the most important thing for us."

Education and empowerment help children become productive, contributing members of their communities. Sadly, an estimated 263 million children worldwide don’t have the chance to go to school—more than 130 million of whom are girls. In 136 countries, SOS tackles the inequalities that oppress girls and women to promote opportunity for all.

Because Amelia and Angela are educated and empowered, they are able to mentor other children, prepare for their careers and eventually help support their family.

So many girls want to learn, but they simply don't have the chance. Sponsor a girl today to help her fulfill her dreams!

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