Beyond Skin with our partners Escuelas de Paz Colombia have been active in Arauca Colombia since 2017. Complimenting the work of Genesis Stars Foundation, Beyond Skin have recently provided additional support through the #FUTyoURES schools project in Northern Ireland . This enables funded teachers post in Arauca and the delivery of a Peace Education programme using Music & Dance. The teachers are Maria Laura and Carlos. In addition extra support for three girls will come through the newly established Natali Márquez Foundation managed by Ingrid Márquez.
Many of the children have been directly impacted by the legacy of conflict dealing with Trauma. Adding to the challenges two armed groups impose social control over the residents of Arauca: the National Liberation Army (Ejército de Liberación Nacional, ELN), a guerrilla group formed in the 1960s, and the “Martín Villa 10th Front” dissident group, which emerged from the demobilized Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia after the 2016 peace accord, and sometimes identifies itself as FARC-EP.
In February 2020 Beyond Skin's youth4peace project manager Lina, travelled to Arauca with her husband Anthony. This blog is a testimony of that visit with text written by Lina.
Our first day in Arauca with Genesis Star Foundation we received a warmth welcome from the community and the children who are part of the foundation. The Foundation school was set up by Genesis Quintero Perez - children's champion, professional musician & dancer, peace activist and Colombian beauty Queen with many crowns to her name including Miss Grand Colombia.
(Pictured below) This is Lionel Casucha, a very enthusiastic kid with so much love to give. You can see him always dancing to the rhythm of Joropo (Arauca’s traditional music) He was always eager to learn and participate in everything. Despite having a health condition, he was always sharing happiness with everyone around him. His presence in the foundation represents the tenacity and courage to reach your dreams. Him and his family were forced to leave Venezuela, now he lives with his mom and his sister in Matevenado a neighbourhood in Arauca, these circumstances are difficult for any child but the Foundation is a safe space where he can express himself through dancing and singing. He never stopped dancing, not even when we asked him to be seated, he still moved his feet.
Pictured below Maria Laura Blanco and children at Genesis Star Foundation
Pictured below - Mirna Zuley & Valeria who are part of the dancing group at Genesis Star Foundation
Valeria Velasco, a very sweet girl she is part of the dancing group at the Genesis Star Foundation. She got my phone and took this picture which means a lot to me. I was thinking about taking a picture of the special shoes they wear to dance Joropo, at the end on the day I saw this picture when I was at the hotel and I couldn’t believe it she took the picture I had in mind. This image represents the strength shown by participants despite the adversity they face due to the poverty they live in. Their resources are so few that they dance in their worn old shoes on broken ground but continue to take joy in striving to maintain their culture and learn through music and dance.
Luis Alexander also belongs to Genesis Star Foundation. This piece of art was made by Esperanza Genesis’s mother last Christmas in representation of the church as part of the Nativity, Luis was proudly holding it.
On our second day we have the privilege to see the performance at Genesis Star Foundation. I was really surprised by how good they were considering some of the children were new and they only had 4 weeks at the foundation. I think the teachers did a great job. I could see their passion about sharing their culture and traditions. A young girl called Karen kindly escorted us everywhere for the first few days. We seen the work of Laura, the most active teacher in the foundation in terms of daily interaction with the participants.
Pictured below is Camila Matus, she is a very quiet girl part of the substitute mothers programme, Esperanza Genesis’s mother is taking take of her at the moment, we were shocked when she started singing she was absolutely amazing a very talented girl, she is a future leader, she was always very willing to help and participated in every event and was leading the younger children. She represents strength of character and fearlessness.
On the lest Juan Carlos the guitar teacher, he is teaching the kids how to play the Cuatro and it’s amazing the job.
Pictured below: This is Esperanza (in blue top) and the baby girl I am holding is Lucia, she could dance more than walk. She loves Joropo. Apart from the amazing work Esperanza and Mary are doing at the Foundation I have to say that the work Esperanza does for these children is incredible.
Pictured below: This is Eduardo Artiaga “ El Potro” with his amazing voice he entertained us and the children daily. He also gave lessons in the Cuatro and played with the children could sing.
We visited I.E Francisco Jose de Caldas primary school, where we had the opportunity to invite the kids to be part of Genesis Star Foundation. We shared our own stories to inspire the children to reach their goals and dreams. On the very left the Director of the School Jorge Contreras. Genesis mother Esperanza, Maria Laura our dance teacher and Elizabeth Morales who represented Genesis.
Pictured below: This was a very emotional moment for Ingrid as she received two drawings made by these two kids which represents Natali’s foundation and legacy.
Pictured below: The border river with Venuzuela. Myself, Anthony, Ingrid, Elizabeth Morales representing Genesis and the Foundation, Mary Quintero Genesis’s sister. And Karen with her mother.
Visit to the high school at I.E Francisco Jose de Caldas. (pictures below)
At the art class with the students, we were impressed the artwork they were doing This is a portrait of Frida Kahlo-Mexican painter made by one of the students. We had the opportunity to talk about Genesis Star Foundation, Beyond Skin and Natali Marquez Foundation.
It was a very worthwhile visit to see the incredible work going on and the difference it is making to the lives of children.
We invite you to support this valuable work with Children of Arauca
You can donate at this link