BUENAVENTURA, Colombia – Closing the gap between Buenaventura, Colombia’s impoverished port city on the Pacific, and prosperous Bogota, is one of the goals of the Educa Pazcifico project, which seeks to transform that region through education.
By means of that project, backed by the BBVA banking group, Lauren Micolta, Maria del Mar Viveros and Doris Xilena Caicedo made the leap from the local Juan Ladrilleros Educational Institute to the National University of Colombia, leader of public higher education in the country, where they were admitted.
“We’re so far ahead there in culture, education, infrastructure, in so many things,” Maria del Mar Viveros, 17, who lives with her mother, Rosario Salamanca, a vendor of beauty products, told EFE in describing the differences between the two cities.
Maria, accepted to the School of Business Administration and who said her father never looked after her, invited the young people of her city to “think big.”
“My education was at risk. If I didn’t get a scholarship it would be next to impossible to get a university education,” the student said, adding that passing the entrance exam was “like a light, like an opportunity had seemed very far away” in a city where whoever can’t pay for university would have to take a technical course.
Educa Pazcifico, promoted by the Visible Hands organization and also by Cali’s Icesi University, the Celsia Foundation and International Migrations (OIM), works mostly at Buenaventura in Valle del Cauca province, Tumaco in Narińo province and Quibdo, the capital of Choco, which suffer high rates of poverty, school dropouts and unemployment.
Another who benefited from this program, which in its first phase helped 884 students and guided 300 in creating their life projects, is Doris Caicedo, accepted to Mechatronic Engineering and who told EFE that the project allowed her to boost her knowledge and be one of just seven students picked by her school to be among its quota for the National University of Colombia.
“My mom and dad are really proud,” said Doris, the youngest of four siblings and whose parents are public servants.
At the same time, Lauren Micolta, 16, chosen for the Law course, said she hopes that Educa Pazcifico can expand to more schools and take on a larger number of young people.
About this Pacific region, she believes it has “a lot of potential” and invited other youths to fight for their goals because “nowadays there are so many distractions.”
The Corporate Responsibility director of BBVA Colombia, Mauricio Flores, noted the importance of supporting this kind of project in a region like the Pacific where the inequality – in social development, basic services and education, among others – is really drastic compared with the rest of the country.