all images and stories are the property of Catherine Beerda-Basso and are not to be used without given permission...thank you

Thursday, 2 June 2016

The Rising Revolution of Medellin, Colombia...

Casa de Hip Hop Kolacho


Casa de Hip Hop Kolacho is an art school in Comuna 13, San Javier, Medellin-
Colombia (this is the comuna that we live in when we come to volunteer...the center is an hour away on the other side of the city).It was initiated in 2013 as a way of keeping the memory of Hector Enrique Pacheco Marmolejo alive. Kolacho was a member of a hip hop group known as C215 and was assassinated in 2009 near his home. After his death this movement came to life...offering the young people, of this comune a place to use music and graffiti as tools to claim their rights, denounce the violence in their community and generate the space for training the youth up in these mediums and expression instead of loosing them to the gang life style that is ever prevalent. Each painting holds a of the walls contains a series of different animals each a representation of something. An hawk for freedom, an owl for knowledge, elephants for family and remembrance, and a panda to remember the children who were lost in the violence between the military, guerrillas, gangs, and even a makeshift military organized by the people who lived within the Comuna . Each is holding a white flag. When the violence and killing had grown too strong in the neighborhood one brave woman exited her house waving a white shirt and shouting for the violence to stop. She was shortly followed by thousands more and the entire hillside turned white with people calling for an end to the bloodshed. Candace and I had the absolute pleasure of taking one of their walking tours to view the graffiti art work of the community. We were lead by Judah, one of the members of Casa Kolacho, who gave us an in depth view of what the comuna went through during the times of uprising. To see these young people bring in peace and a fighting in a different kind of way was so inspiring to me...they have lived lives that most of our children could never even imagine...and though their historic stories are riddle with death and suffering they still stand up to make the change that they want to see...each painting holds a different story of freedom and revival...this day stays with me...their message is simple...
LOVE is the only WAY to Freedom for all.

for more info on this amazing movement please watch the short video below

Love and Light and Revolution Unexpected Journey...

Seeds of Love and Hope
International Society

"We Love...even in times of War"
I have started and restarted this post
more times than I care to say.
There is so much about this last pilgrimage
that will be forever etched in my heart.
Stories that have made a home in my skin
Set up shop in my heart
Have sunken deep into my bones
Stories and Experiences that were so unexpected
I still stand in awe.

to get past my challenge of
"where to start" 
I thought I would dedicate this post to those of you
who generously assisted me in this pilgrimage by way of
monetary, prayers, and over all support and encouragement.
This year your giving ways raised $2000
Before I left I went to the department store to stock up on goodies I was taking down, here I spent over $1,000.00

Some money went towards buying gifts for the staff.
A few visits ago I began putting together 
"goody bags" for our staff.

My hearts desire with this was to show our amazing staff just how highly they were thought of , loved and appreciated.

It has always been a highlight for me
doing this practice
and as our relationship deepens
so do the gifts given
and it really really means a lot to them.

I ended up putting together 12 gift bags...10 for our female staff and 2 for our male staff.
The bags consisted of quality personal toiletries...
along with perfume for the women, cologne for the men...
wallets for the men and hand purses for the women...
both containing 20,000 pesos each
the women received Mala bracelets made by myself and sister-friend and the men received new ties
there was candy, lip balm, tissue packs and scarves
along with loads of love and honouring
for what they do.

For these are the people on the front line
tirelessly showing up daily for the children
and the people of this community that we serve.
These are the "knights in shining armor" of this story

 One group that really seems to get over looked when it comes to gifts is the teenage boys.
It is so much easier to buy for young children or girls.
So after getting some thoughts from our Canadian Volunteer, Candace

(who is living and volunteering at the center for the year)
I used some of this money to buy specific gifts for them....
things like nice watches, sunglasses and clothing. appreciated

The watches specifically went to our young men who graduated high school, and are in continuing education.
Whether that be trades school  or university.
This is a huge win for us as an organization.
We have our largest group of young men in continuing education right now and this is something to celebrate.
And so we celebrated them.

Most teenage boys get involved in the gang life style very very is a way of life in these communities.
But some of our young men are
as one of them said to me
"changing their story".
And these communities need this so much.
The lack of men and male role models is painfully evident.

Not to say there isn't some...
there are
but they are so few and so far between 
the line has been long broken of good male elders
But these young courageous souls
are changing that...
and we are committed to helping them any way we can.

 Right now we have 11 young people in post secondary education...7 of which are boys. 
One more note on this.
Please keep in mind
that for these young people
they are the first in their family...
for many generations to graduate highschool
let along go to university or trade school....

There were also some basic supplies bought for the center.
Basic and much needed office supplies
because, when you are working with children...
many many children
things get lost and misplaced

So with the purchasing done we packed our suitcases.
How it is done is those who can...
will take most of their own personal items on a carry on...
we then each take two full suitcases full of items
to bring down to the center.

Often we are asked why we do this
it is because things like toiletries and daily needed items are very very expensive in Colombia.
Also we get a lot of gently used clothing donated to us and we all seem to collect things as we go, in between trips.

These suitcases also hold gifts from the sponsors for their kids. This is ALWAYS a HUGE deal for the kids.

Receiving something from their sponsor
is SO important for them feeling like they matter.

 Bearing witness to them, 
as they receive their gift bag
and the move off with a group of friends around them
 go through their bag item by item
reacting and responding to each one 
as their friends look on....
 is a beautiful sight to behold... 

So back to packing
Each of us takes two suitcases full of items for the center
As you can imagine
it is an exciting day when we arrive.

As for the remainder of the money
it came down with us in the form of pesos
It is the one time in my life I get to claim to be
a thank you for that hahaha.

The rest of the money went directly to the center.
Some of it went towards the unexpected 
kitchen renovation bill....

We ended up having to totally redo our kitchen
including buying a new industrial fridge
due to water damage and code issues.
The renovation was finished by the time we arrived
and the kitchen looked amazing.
And like most "homes"
(because when I spoke with the children
each of them said
the center is their second home...
for some it was their main home...)
          the  kitchen is the heart and so it is here
This is where the mamas cook and nourish the children.
Our cook staff all have children that our in our program
they are all women from the community
and they all are invested, not only in their own children,
but the other children in our program as well
It is evident as you see children standing by the kitchen feed window or the kitchen door to connect with one of the mama cooks for something other than food.

Our mama cooks poor love into each meal they make
Their love and respect for the center is shown by their impeccable work ethic and obvious passion for this project.
Being a part of SOLAHIS  has changed each of them.
They tell me stories of how they never thought
they would be the ones providing for their family.
Now as they do just that, their own self worth has risen
and so they can teach the same to their children
Value yourself
You matter
You were created by a God of Love
These are the messages they can now pass on 
to their children whole heartedly
for they themselves have now experienced this Love
this Self Worth, this Pride of Self, this Power of Knowing.

We also bought and planted over 20 shrubs and fruit trees.
We are step by step transforming our 2 acres into areas for the children to play and enjoy.

A fence was put up to mark a walk way down to where the playground will be and also a vegetable garden.
What gives me great joy is seeing how the kids
of all ages come out to help when we are there.

They are SO excited to be a part of it
and be with us.
We had two wonderful men on our team this trip
One being my husband...his first time
and Al, a passionate soul, and his first time as well.
Some of our young men worked side by side with our men
working hard and getting the job done.
These boys LOVED being around our men
it was evident in how they "showed up"
each day, willing and able.
Both of our men were surprised
and moved at how quickly the language barrier just did not they could all communicate
clearly in other ways
and how the joy of working together
was evident and appreciated.

My husband, in particular, experienced a closeness with a couple of the boys that came out to help him every day and saw just how much his praise was something they so needed and were starving for. He saw fist hand how a small gesture of appreciation meant so much to these boys. He realized just how much influence we have as elders in these children's lives....what an impact we had on them, being there. It is something he will not forget and is already looking forward to the day when we can return.

There are more stories to share...
some may find their way here
but all will be found in the book I am currently writing.

In it, I share my personal experience and also 
the intimate stories shared with me by the staff and children of the center, over my last 3 visits.

My hope is to have is finished and ready for publishing 
by the end of the year...
but I have also learned that 
like most things birthed
the book will come in it's own time...
when it is ready....
What I do know for sure is that 
it will happen.


Thank you again
from my heart, the children's hearts 
and my sister's and brother's hearts
who your gift impacted

You made a difference
You were a part of something big
and you were there
for every moment
every story
every laughter and tear
you were there with us.

Thank you Thank you Thank you
Shanti Shanti Shanti
Love and Light and Gratitude

      Our Prayer of Service  
by Iyanla Vanzant

Today we recognize that we are children of The Divine;
sustained by divine love
guided by divine light
protected by divine mercy
alive through divine grace
Today we are thankful for this fit of life through which we are able to SERVE
Today, we ask the Divine to use us.
Use our minds
Use our eyes
Use our ears
Use our hands
Use our feet
Use our being and this gift of life to SERVE those in need
Use us as an instrument of peace.
Use us as a tool of strength
Use us as a vessel of patience and healing and love that we may SERVE those in need.
Let all the we are today be in SERVICE to Your will
Let all the we do today be in SERVICE of Your love
Let all the I give today be in SERVICE and alignment with your perfect plan for humanity
Today, we are in Your SERVICE
For this, we are so grateful
And So IT IS!

Let us Remember
To SERVE is an act of love
Our SERVICE is a divine gift to the world
When we do what we love, we are richly rewarded
SERVICE and poverty do not co-exist
 Purpose + Passion + Focus = SERVICE
When we live in SERVICE, survival is guaranteed.

Dedicated in loving memory to 
Sthiven Castano
a young man wise beyond his years
and loved and appreciated by many
may you rest in peace, son of my heart.