New light for children from waste pickers' families

After the death of her husband, Gloria Amparo Hernández stayed behind with 4 young children in the countryside of Colombia. She had no other alternative but to move to a large dumping ground where she collected and sorted waste for recycling purposes. This way she managed to earn some money and keep her family alive. While at work she met Jackson, a young boy without any family. Gloria taught him how to read and write, sing and pray and gave him food, clothing and a bed. More children followed and after 14 years of collecting waste she decided to start up a shelter where she could house and feed ‘high risk’ children and youngsters who were living under extremely poor and unhealthy circumstances at the dumping ground.

A couple of years later, an official foundation could be registered to help improve the lives of young children from waste picking families by providing them with basic education, food and recreation. Nowadays, the Nuevas Luces (New Light) Foundation in Santiago de Cali serves as a day care center and, together with a few other mothers, Gloria takes care of 96 children ranging in the ages of 8 months to 5 years and serves breakfast to 86 other children.

Looking for a proper community project, our colleagues from Pulp and Performance Chemicals in Santiago de Cali, did not have to think twice and selected the Nuevas Luces day care center to give their support. Due to limited resources, the required maintenance to carry out the three basic activities of the center was insufficient and also a proper infrastructure was lacking. Our volunteering employees organized a meeting at the center and identified the main need: the installation of a playground. Besides having fun while playing, the children need to develop their muscles and motoric skills which is an integral part of their growth.

In close consultation with the Foundation staff, our volunteering employees decided to carry out three activities. Support from the Community Program was ensured and, spread over four Saturdays the tasks were divided among the various teams. The first activity consisted of a group who introduced the AkzoNobel project by sharing a cake, refreshments and a gift for the children. They were received with great enthusiasm and a welcoming banner saying: "Thank you, AkzoNobel for ensuring that the rights of children are met: Right to Recreation".

Before actually starting with the second and third activity, a lot of preparatory work had to be carried out, like measuring the area, designing the playground, selecting the materials and recreation equipment, as well as obtain quotations from the respective suppliers. When all this was done, the painting of the park and the dollhouse could begin. Accompanied by the educators and the director of the Foundation, our volunteers painted all the wooden parts in the park in various colors, planted seeds to grow plants, giving life and good energy to the project. This part of the job was carried out during 2 Saturdays by the entire staffing of the Pulp and Performance Chemicals site, who demonstrated a real desire to help through dedicated teamwork.

Due to bad weather conditions the creation of the playground had to be postponed a few times but, thanks to the persistence of all involved, the project could fortunately still be finished in 2014. An entire new recreation area has been created, installed with new playing equipment, the security fence was renovated and the goal of the project could be achieved to the great satisfaction of all volunteers involved: "They did not have a park or recreational area to develop an important part of learning: the overall development of fine motor skills", one of them emphasized. "It really feels good to be able to make such a good contribution for these children". Another colleague said: "by contributing directly to this work we sensed and strongly perceived the feeling of happiness of people who do not have the necessary resources". Through Winning Together - one of our core Values - a future perspective for these deprived children could be realized.