Community makes safe space for kids to play

Members of a community in Medellin, Colombia, gather on a soccer field they helped renovate. From left are Yulieth, Keidy, Martha, Yesenia and Luis. The three women in the center are mothers of children sponsored through Unbound, and Luis is a former Unbound scholar.

For the people of Paraiso on the outskirts of Medellin, Colombia, creating a level playing field was more than a figure of speech. The lack of adequate recreational space for young people — and the problems that come from kids lacking healthy activities to occupy their time — had become major concerns for the community.

“We saw that children and young people did not have a place to play, where they could perform different activities,” said Luis Alvarez, a community leader and former Unbound scholar. “So we talked with Unbound and presented, together with several outstanding mothers, the proposal to build a field in this space where there could be more recreation.”

Financing for the project came in the form of an Agents of Change grant. A new Unbound initiative that funds local improvement projects, Agents of Change relies on families in the Unbound program to lead the way in planning and executing improvements in their own communities.

New life for an old field

There was, in fact, a soccer field already in existence in Paraiso, but it had fallen into disrepair. It was overgrown, strewn with litter and had become a hangout for street gangs. But the biggest obstacle was that it had been built on a hillside and would require considerable work to make it level. Still, rather than start from scratch somewhere else, organizers of the project decided the better option was to repair the field.

Members of the local Unbound mothers group called on other parents in the community to become involved. While it wasn’t easy to get organized, little by little most of the community became engaged in the project. Those who couldn’t contribute manual labor often supplied food for the workers.

A place to come together

With delays because of rain, the project took about a year to complete. It also took additional money to rent the heavy machinery needed to remove debris and level the field. Women of the community sold baked goods to help raise funds.

Today the finished soccer field, which includes lighting, a perimeter wall and security fencing, gets plenty of use. The local school plays its games there and women’s soccer teams use it for practice. It has also become a place for the community to gather.

“We try to instill that it is a space for everyone and, little by little, the community is recognizing the space, [using it] and taking care of it more,” Luis said.