In a nutshell: what is CASA HOGAR?

CASA HOGAR is a development cooperation initiative founded in Germany with a focus on women’s education in Colombia.

CASA HOGAR wants to provide a home for young girls in the Colombian region Chocó where they are protected from exploitation and prostitution and where they can feel safe. We want to provide a place where they can experience positive support and empowerment, where they can study in peace and receive a diploma that qualifies them for university education.

To this end, CASA HOGAR supervises and funds the construction and implementation of a residence for 20 female students aged seven to twelve at the episcopal Colegio Diocesano in Istmina, Colombia. Furthermore, CASA HOGAR supports the addition of another level to the school building so that up to 500 children can attend classes and receive a university-qualifying degree. Our project is executed in close collaboration with CASA HOGAR Colombia headed by Pater José Doney, director of the Colegio Diocesano, and Julio Hernando García Peláez, Bishop of the diocese Istmina-Tadó. CASA HOGAR consists of a team of volunteers in Germany and a team in Colombia. Construction of the residence began in February 2016. Here you can follow the current status regarding the finances and progress of the project.

CASA HOGAR – i.e.: kása ogár – is Spanish and can be directly translated as: “the fireside”. In Latin America “casa hogar” is a fixed phrase and means something like “home”. “Casa hogar” stands for a safe space, for a feeling of comfort, for a carefree state. We want to provide such a place for the students in Istmina.

How did CASA HOGAR come to life?

The story goes as follows: in January 2015 the young doctor from Bonn, Theodor Rueber, travels to Colombia to complete a practical term in a hospital in Chocó. The region of Chocó is located near the Pacific coast, is to a great extent covered by wild forest, and has a tropical climate – and, this small stretch of land is rich in mineral resources, especially gold.

Sadly, girls have little chance at a dignified youth in this society dominated by men. As a result of exploitation many of them get pregnant at a very young age and then disappear. They are left behind with their children without any means of existence.

Theodor Rueber decides to contact Bishop Julio Garcia who has been working in Chocó for five years and has dedicated himself to fighting against the misery and for a brighter future of young people in this region. Through several education programs Julio is trying, together with his colleagues, to provide better chances for girls and women. Theodor visits the Bishop’s school in Istmina, the Colegio Diocesano San José, where students are taught basics skills, such as reading and writing, as well as practical skills. Nevertheless, outside school there is no protection for these girls. A defining moment for Theodor is when an eight-year old girl begs for food and offers him her body in exchange – business as usual in Istmina, Colombia.

The Bishop and his vicar general Padre José Doney, also the director of the Colegio Diocesano, among others, are trying to make a change. They have a clear vision: to build a house where the female students can live in a protected environment.

Bishop Julio knows that well-educated women become more confident, stronger, can exert more influence in society and can stand up for women’s rights. Beyond that, they can help shape the future of Colombia by defeating the machismo and strengthening societal solidarity and the sense for justice.

But financial means to put these visions into practice have been scarce. Theodor decides he wants to help. When he returns to Germany, he immediately sets himself to work. He gathers a few friends to tell them what he has seen and what he has in mind. All of them understand the problem: the girls in Istmina are exposed and vulnerable. They need a place to live. The plan is carefully thought out – it could work!

The team prints flyers, creates a website and contacts possible sponsors. Within a few weeks, the team of CASA HOGAR succeeds in raising more than 60.000 euros. The success is overwhelming. The construction of the residence is planned in close coordination with the Bishop Julio Garcia. At the same time, the governement authorities endow the Colegio with the right to teach for nine years – students will from now on be able to receive a diploma that qualifies them to attend universities.

Construction work begins early 2016.

CASA HOGAR advances its plan so that the Colegio can extend their schooling program to nine years. Therefore, the school building needs to be expanded, maintenance costs need to be covered and new personnel needs to be hired. The team of CASA HOGAR is growing and with it the funds are growing. In May 2017 donations exceeded 170,000 euros for the benefit of the girls in Istmina. All members are aware of their responsibility. How to keep the project under way is discussed at evening sessions in the Rhineland. Charity concerts, communication strategies, the most recent donations and expenses, as well as news from the Colombian architects are reviewed and assignments are distributed. Our work is cooperative, precise and transparent.

Our vision: the classrooms in Istmina will soon be filled and one year after another will leave the school with their Bachillerato, the highest form of high school diploma in Colombia. Everyone in Chocó should know that the doors are open to a better future here in Istmina through the Colegio Diocesano. And every donation helps to get closer to this goal. Vamos!

CASA HOGAR – i.e.: kása ogár – is Spanish and can be directly translated as: “the fireside”. In Latin America “casa hogar” is a fixed phrase and means something like “home”. “Casa hogar” stands for a safe space, for a feeling of comfort, for a carefree state. We want to provide such a place for the students in Istmina.