Founded in 2004, the Fundación Villa Ricahas has at its core the aim of strengthening community organisation in Villa Rica, and as such promotes community-led efforts to find solutions and alternatives to both the causes and effects of the country's conflict. Young people are a fundamental focus for the Foundation, as it seeks to offer them an alternative path through the promotion of their active involvement in community life (entrance into armed groups is often the most lucrative option for youngsters in the community).
The Foundation aspires to provide a suitable space for future generations where they can learn to co-exist in a peaceful and respectful manner, in solidarity with one another.
The municipality of Villa Rica is situated in south-west Colombia, in the department of Cauca. It has a population of 13,000, 90 per cent of which are Afro-Colombian. Indeed, the ancestors of the current population were brought to Colombia from Africa as slaves, and although these people were liberated from slavery in the late nineteenth century, many of today's inhabitants still lack the freedoms and opportunities that would have been hoped for. It is in this context that the Foundation works, seeking to contribute towards the construction of a base from which this liberation can finally be realised. The Foundation works on issues surrounding the concentration of land and the resultant lack of food sovereignty, the lack of education, and the lack of opportunities for young people – realities that are both a cause and effect of the continued conflict in Colombia, and realities that characterise Villa Rica.
The various programmes carried out by the Foundation are dependent upon the involvement of members of the community. The same people who benefit from the programmes are fundamental to carrying out further projects, and as such the continued existence of the Foundation. These people often acquire the necessary skills and qualifications while actively participating in the different programmes. This is made possible as the only condition to join the Foundation is a desire to make a social contribution.
Areas of work
The programmes carried out by the Foundation include the following:
- The Education and Culture Programme
- The Maternity and Child Health Programme
- The Food Security and Environment Programme
- The Childhood and Youth Programme
The Foundation actively encourages small-scale subsistence farming, a form of farming that has become almost extinct in Villa Rica as large sugar-cane companies have taken over the vast majority of fertile land. The Foundation has a small piece of land with which to cultivate crops, allowing the community to recuperate lost agricultural knowledge and advance the possibility of further small-scale farming, enhanced food sovereignty and a greater empowerment, both at the personal and community level.
Using crops cultivated on this land, the Foundation runs a programme providing free daily meals for those with greatest need.
The offering of a space to the youth of Villa Rica is fundamental to the work of the Foundation. Workshops offering artistic and cultural activities are held. These activities include painting, drawing, singing, playing music and dancing. There is a particular emphasis on the community's African roots.
On the academic side, the Foundation runs a programme to provide homework assistance to children.
All these activities aim to strengthen the self-esteem of the community's young people, helping to shape their personalities, improve their ethnic identity, and enable them to see a brighter future. The Foundation hopes that Villa Rica's young people can gain control of their own development and that their life ambitions are based on cultural, ethnic and social values. For the Foundation, this is also a starting point for the process of creating future leaders; future leaders who can carry forward the work of the Foundation.