Monday, January 30, 2012

Colombia 2012

ETA: Grumble! blogger is up to something now. I can't get hard returns to show up. Excuse the mess!

I had to add all the paragraph tags by hand! much for a content editor

The first month of the year is almost gone...well gone really! Fiberwise I have not done much this month, . I have not knit except for a couple of inches on my camo socks, the back of a cardigan on the machine that promptly became balls of yarn, and a cowl I knit yesterday, and is now drying. I have not sat idle either, I went to Colombia for a quick trip, a very short week. Getting ready for the trip took most of my time and energy the first two weeks in January, gone one week, and now the month is almost over.

The trip was wonderful, but bittersweet, my grandma passed away on January the 2nd, life played its tricks and I did not make it in time to see her one last time...I spent precious time with my dad, his wife, my siblings and nephews. A couple of visits with my cousins, and a dear family of very close friends. I did not visit with anyone else, not that I did not want to, time was too precious so I had to cut it short and be very selective of who I was going to spend time with. I had it all planned out, in a calendar, day by day, hour by hour. It all happened like clockwork, amazing since Bogota is a crazy city of 10 million people in which traffic is a daily nightmare. Somehow it all happened.

Three days into the trip my Lolita dog became ill, I found out via a bizarre email in which the pet sitter in answer to my question said she did not know if Lola had eaten..... With this I contacted a dear friend,asked her to go over to the house and check on her. Sure enough, she was very ill, was rushed to the vet and for a couple of days we did not know if she was going to make it. Miracles do happen, and now my beloved 14 yo yorkie is back home and doing quite well.

This is me being really picky, the other person in the knitting teacher wondering what else I could possibly find :)

Part of the reason of my trip to Colombia was to visit the Friends of Colombian Orphans Machine Knitting Workshop at Hogares Club Michin. I was the only board member of the organization that had not visited the site yet! About time since we have been at it for almost 4 years now. Two other board members and I had made arrangements with Michin to visit. We wanted to have time to talk with the kids in training, the teacher, and the admin staff. I wanted to see first hand the finished goods, the machines and get a feel for the teacher and the kids. They are my people and I can read them well, there is a cultural take in how people communicate. Communication is not just about spoken language, it is also about body language and the person listening on the other end.

I am very happy to report that things are going smoothly. The kids that have trained or are in training are happy, they have learned quite a bit, they are capable of making useful things on the machine. A little guy wants to become a fashion designer, and he is dead serious about it. Some of the others see it as a potential source of income in their future, there is even one that wants to become a doctor and sees machine knitting as a pass time and distraction for stressful times in her life. Hurray! in their eyes, it has a purpose, they are learning a skill, their lives are enriched with it.

The teacher is a wonderful woman who enjoys machine knitting and has now discovered that she loves teaching, and the kids, she is fully identified with the purpose of Michin, and is having a great time at it, aside from the fact that now she has become a full time employee. This means that we are touching yet more lives, expanding the purpose, we are giving this woman a steady source of income, health insurance and benefits for her and her kids.

The staff at Michin is the best! The organization was started 50 years ago by a woman who invited kids to her home after school in hopes of keeping them occupied and out of trouble until their parents got home from work. She fed them and came up with stuff for them to do. Much to her dismay she soon found out that some of the kids had no homes to go to, and no parents to wait for. Very soon she had more kids than space at her house, as time passed she learned of the troubling lives some of these kids had. Through donations and hard work she bought a house where kids could go after school and some even live at. Today they have seven houses, one for each age group, boys and girls are separated after a certain age, a new program created by the Colombian government is sponsoring one of the houses exclusively for battered women and their kids. The Colombian child protective services helps support the organization, but with so many kids there is never enough money. The big concern for everyone, and FOCO’s target population, kids over 14 who will soon age out of the orphanage and will have to leave if not adopted by 18. Bound to the streets or who knows where if they don’t have a skill that can help them earn a living. There are 170 kids at Michin, 100 of them have no legal ties with their families, either because they have been taken away or because they were abandoned so long ago that there is no telling where the families are. Eighty percent of those kids are 12 years old or older....those are the kids we have to focus on, and pray that the rest get adopted before they get there.

That is the short version of the story, lots more to it of course.......

Future goals, to create a cooperative so the machine knitting program becomes self sustainable, and a source of work for kids that age out, and expand to the battered women group. For that, we need money to buy more machines, and hire at least one more teacher. Michin is in the process of buying another house to move the woodwork shop, the bakery and the knitting shop. Once there we can expand the program. They are close to getting the house, most of the cash is ready, one more little push and it will the mean time, FOCO has to come up with the resources to full fill the goals.

Can you help? Five bucks will buy a pound of yarn for the kids to learn with...


fleegle said...

I am so sorry about your grandma :( That's so sad.

But your trip sounds rewarding...which one is you in the photo? I can't tell.

Jane said...

Laritza is on the left.
Thank you for your involvement in Friends of Colombian Orphans. It's a rewarding cause.

Cheryl S. said...

I'm so sorry about your grandma.

By the way, I stopped in Cartagena for a day last month - the old city was so beautiful!