Somos Pacifico, a new techno-cultural center in Colombia’s third largest city, Cali, aims to bring education in computers, music, English and design to hundreds of young people in the city’s violent and economically vulnerable southeast.
The center, which opened on Monday thanks to public and private funds, strives for “peace and culture” in Cali’s Comuna 21 (Aguablanca) district, which is affected by violence, displacement, unemployment and lack of infrastructure.
“This is a conflict zone, the majority (almost 80%) of the people come from displaced [families], the majority are afro-descendants from the Pacific zone, for this reason they have few roots and the conflicts are rising every day. There are very few work and recreation opportunities and there is a lot of violence, a lot of micro-trafficking of arms and drugs,” Daniela Konietzko, sub-director of the AlvarAlice Foundation told Colombia Reports.
The center already offers classes in English, music design and computers, supported by some of the leading institutions in Colombia, like the language institute Colombo-Americano. The center plans to expand in the near future with classes in plastic arts, dance, photography and gastronomy.
“Our slogan is ‘a child that plays an instrument will never again carry a gun,'” explained Konietzko, who hoped the Somos Pacifico project could help make Cali’s violent districts more peaceful.
“We have developed the themes of graphic design and audio and video production, so that [the students] can record their songs and upload them to YouTube and we also have a spot for digital video. These programs are part of the community and we have noted that we are constructing peace because persons have responded very well to the [project]. We have around 800 beneficiaries and a pretty big waiting list,” said Konietzko who added that they are looking to grow the programs.
The Somos Pacifico center was founded by the Fundacion AlvarAlice y Paz y Bien, the grocery chain Comfandi and Cali’s mayor’s office. The construction and implementation of the center cost approximately $4 million – 60 percent founded by the public sector and the rest by private sector donations.
Konietzko explained that, “The idea of creating this techno-cultural center is to mix a bit of culture to bring back the roots of these Pacific people with programs of music, theatre, photography and to give them the social and educational part so that the young people in this vulnerable zone can find work opportunities. We hope this place can be a space of reconciliation and peace, in which the children and young people can have other opportunities so they, in the future, can enter educational institutions where they can then enter the labor market.”
- Interview with Daniela Konietzko, sub-director Fundacion AlvarAlice
- AlvarAlice Foundation official homepage