Monday, August 3, 2009

Children Beyond Our Borders in Colombia

There are many children in Colombia who go hungry each day.

UF Student Group Seeks To Help Colombian Kids

By Juliana Jimenez

Pablo could have had anything he wanted for Christmas - toys, clothes, money.

But he had something else in mind.

University of Florida graduate student Angelica Suarez, 25, told 8-year-old Pablo, a boy from the slums of Medellin, Colombia, to ask for whatever he wanted, and his "friends" from UF would do anything to get it for him.

"I want a hug," Pablo said, and Suarez says his answer changed her life.

A year before Suarez met Pablo, when she was vice president at UF's Colombian Student Association, she found she "had a very big problem," she said. "I didn't like throwing parties for no reason."

COLSA was renowned for its parties, which attracted scores of people and raised hundreds of dollars, she said.

So Suarez decided to use this money for a good cause, and Children Beyond Our Borders was born.

Donations has helped to feed many families in Medellin.

CBOB started as a small committee, then developed into a UF student organization. Now, six years later, it is a nongovernmental organization planning its sixth trip to Colombia from Aug. 8-22.

Suarez, founder and now vice president of CBOB, said in her first trip with CBOB she found the inspiration to keep working hard for the organization.

CBOB's first trip was in the summer of 2004. Five UF students took 300 pounds of clothes and 200 pounds of toys to Medellin, Colombia, which they had collected during the school year.

The NGO now carries out two annual projects in Colombia: one to Medellin in August, and another in Cartagena in May.

"I am debating who has more fun, the kids or the volunteers," Suarez said. "The kids teach us more things than we can teach them."

Students who want to volunteer helping children abroad can register with CBOB in November for the May 2010 trip to Cartagena.

With CBOB, students can work in public relations, marketing, program development and grant writing.

The level of involvement depends on the student's enthusiasm, Suarez said.

"We try to see the person's individual skills," she said. "The experience is not only to go outside the country and see places; it also allows you to expand your creativity."

Children Beyond Our Borders

Crossing Borders On The Road is the annual service trip of CBOB. For the past five summers students from the University of Florida and various other universities within the United States have gathered and traveled to Colombia to make a lasting change on the lives of CHILDREN.

During an entire academic year, student volunteers gather monetary and in kind donations such as clothes, hygiene products, school supplies and computers, which are then delivered to the cities in which our service trips take place. Also, CBOB works on different projects to be implemented with fundraised materials during the summer service trips. Before the trip, volunteers prepare, plan, and put together workshops for the children. Some of the topics we teach include Leadership, the Environment, Arts & Music, Self-Esteem, and Peace Education. We truly believe in sharing our knowledge and love with the world. That is why, for these service trips, it is very important that every volunteer contributes to the development of the educational material to be implemented in the trips regardless of their major or experience. This is what ultimately makes our Crossing Borders trips unique and a complete success.

To make a donation or for more information on how to help the children in Colombia visit Children Beyond Our Borders.

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