Poder Joven Colombia Donations Amount in Units of $1
In The Beginning
During the Christmas holiday of 1995, 20 students from the University of Antionquia, including industrial engineering major and current executive director of Poder Joven, Clared Jaramillo, decided to hand out food to street children in downtown Medellin. The positive reaction from the community prompted the students to continue this activity every weekend for the next four years. Over time, Clared and her friends realized that to have a real impact, they needed to address the underlying problems that forced young children living in the slums onto the streets. As a result, Poder Joven Foundation was formally registered in July 1996 as a charitable organization with the mission of using education to alleviate the pressure of extreme poverty, family violence, sexual exploitation and drug culture, as the driving forces leading to children live in the streets.
In 1999 Poder Joven opened its first community center, named Casa Karah, in the neighborhood of Barrio Triste and enrolled 15 children. Today Casa Karah serves 65 children regularly. Most of these children live with their families in small rooms (10 feet x 15 feet or smaller) with no windows and one or two old mattresses on the floor. Two to three-story buildings contain multiples of these small rooms (called “units”) and offer shared toilets, showers, and a common kitchen area, all in very precarious conditions.
A second Center, named Casa Maren, opened in 2006 in a Neighborhood called Brisas del Jardín, which today hosts 75 children on a daily basis. Brisas del Jardínis is an illegal settlement of over 500 impoverished families of Internally Displaced People (IDPs) who have fled from armed conflict in rural areas. Their living spaces are unsafe structurally, and overcrowded. Landslides are common during the rainy season, sweeping away homes and causing injuries and deaths, including those of young children..
Because their parents struggle to seek out a living, digging for recyclables, marketing candles or other small items, or doing others’ laundry or day labor, children are left unattended and often wander the streets, falling into petty crime such as shoplifting or vandalism, or become drug users and gang members. Poder Joven has grown from simply providing a safe place for children to stay off of the streets into a full-service program that provides education, regular meals, as well as access to medical care and mental counseling, and most of all attention and affection.