14 July 2010

The foundation is helping to construct second floors on the classrooms in the upper school so that more children can attend.  We went up to take pictures of the construction and talk to the workers, who asked if it would be possible to use the extra materials to build a community center farther up the hill.  In general, the farther you climb, the more dangerous and impoverished the area and common space, hard to come by in all of Cazucá is especially rare and hard to come by further up the hill.  The foundation is supportive of all ideas to create congregation areas to help keep kids off of the dangerous streets and to give the people of the community a space in which they can meet, organize and enjoy each others’ company.  For this reason, the schools are used as educational institutions for the children but also as a space for adults and community members. Milena, the coordinator in Cazucá agreed that this was a great idea and they arranged the exchange of materials.  There is now a new , albeit small, space for the community up the hill, built without labor costs by community builders who were in turn fed and given water and juice by the surrounding neighborhood. Things like this may seem small, but collaboration among the neighborhood and the creation of space ends up being incredibly important to making a mostly displaced population feel more rooted in their new community and to create a sense that their neighbors and neighborhood are something that should be cared and fought for.

As we started to head down the steep steps from the school a teacher ran after us and told us to stop.  At the bottom of the steps and off about 100 feet there were three young men with hoods on staring at us intently.  We waited for them to move along, as we do often.  After about 10 minutes they walked to the edge of the next hill and all but one climbed down a bit so that we could no longer see them.  The third stayed within sight and turned to checked on our status every minute or two.  While we were waiting, Milena and the teacher began talking about incidents of the past.  Among the stories, I was told that last year a volunteer was right outside of the school and had already knocked to be let in by a guard when a gun was pressed against his head and his bag was taken.  After about a half hour a bus approached so we ran down the steps and jumped on.  After the teacher had gotten off the bus Milena looked at me and said, “oh Kealy, what would have happened to us?”  It really set in then how many times a day the vigilance of others saves me from danger that I, and even Milena who has worked in Cazucá for a year and is Colombian, don’t even notice.  Luckily I now have a lot of  friends, colleagues and community members looking out for my well-being.

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