Residence for schoolgirls in Istmina: “Casa Hogar Niña María”
The Chocó region is marked by poverty and widely dispersed communities lacking access to secondary education. Poor families are often confronted with the following reality: They can keep their daughters home following traditional structures or send them to stay with “acquaintances” in the city to attend school. When sent on their own to the city to stay with acquaintances, however, the girls are often (sexually) exploited and don’t have time to attend school. At the same time, they are exposed to other dangers in a city far away from the support of the family. These dangers include, e.g., the influence of seemingly helpful illegal groups as well as unwanted pregnancy in childhood and adolescence.
CASA HOGAR Niña María
For this reason, CASA HOGAR supports the residential home “CASA HOGAR Niña María” where girls of indigenous and Afro-Colombian origin live protected and untroubled in the town of Istmina while attending the Colegio Diocesano San José school on a scholarship. All girls in the residence are of poor origin and come from remote areas of the Chocó without access to schooling and with omnipresent danger of displacement and forced recruitment by illegal groups.
CASA HOGAR Niña María wants to be – in the true sense of the word – a “hogar” (home) for its residents: a place where they can find affection, understanding, light-heartedness and a second family. A safe place where the currently 15 girls can receive curricular and extracurricular education so that they can later use the skills they have acquired for themselves, the Chocó and their home communities.
Who takes care of the girls in their residence?
The non-profit organization Asociación Benposta Nación de Muchachos (Benposta) is the implementing organization of the school dormitory Casa Hogar Niña María. Benposta initiates and supports holistic development processes for children and young people who have become victims of exploitation, social exclusion and armed conflicts. As a special pedagogical method, Benposta cultivates a culture of self-government – also in the CHNM dormitory. In this way, the residents are strengthened in their role as active subjects of their own lives and – under professional supervision – run their dormitory independently according to democratic guidelines with a mayor and various responsibilities.
In addition, the girls have a tutor who supports them in their learning. This is important because most of the girls have not received an adequate education in their home towns and Spanish is not their first language, so many have learning difficulties.
But not only Benposta and the tutor are there for the girls: More than 15 volunteers in Istmina take care of them. For example, they celebrate each of the girls’ birthdays, organize parties for Halloween and Christmas, provide school supplies and clothing, and take the girls to the cinema.
Thanks to Benposta’s almost 50 years of experience in working with children, families and communities affected by the dynamics of the armed conflict in Colombia, Benposta is an ideal partner for the management of the Chocó Schoolgirls’ Residence and its expansion a meeting center for the entire region. Benposta also enjoys high recognition from Colombian institutions, the German embassy in Colombia and international cooperation organizations.
Project partner: Asociación Benposta Nación de Muchachos (Benposta)