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Mochuelo Bajo-Community Project

FCH Students National University Of Colombia

Mochuelo Bajo is a community building project which is being carried out thanks to the efforts of a group of students from the National University of Colombia, a group of young people  from a neighborhood called Mochuelo Bajo, and some communal organizations from the same neighborhood. Following is a general description of the project, the people that have we been working with; the work itself, its motives and projection. The Mochuelo Bajo Project has not up to now received any governmental nor non-governmental support and it is carried out as volunteer work.

Mochuelo Bajo is a neighborhood located in the rural zone of Ciudad Bolivar (Bogotá D.C., Southern zone, it is 5 Km away from the urban limits of the city. It is inhabited by over one thousand people.  Most of these people came to the neighborhood after leaving lands and possessions as a result of violence. Mochuelo Bajo is isolated for more reasons than its geographical location, there is only one public phone for all of the inhabitants and there is no public transportation. Perhaps this situation is the result of a chronic lack of governmental action. Mochuelo Bajo’s citizens have integrated four Juntas de Acción Comunal (JAC), one group of "Communitarian Mothers" and a Youth Association.  The people participating in the JACs are polarized because they have to compete with each other to get financial help from the Mayor's office. The Communitarian Mothers take care of children while mothers work.  This group has received support from an NGO called “Apoyemos.”  The project we are presenting has been carried out with the direct work and contributions from the Youth Association; young people, aged between 17 and 24, participate voluntarily. They started working in July 1999 as a support group for the JACs and they attained the construction of a park for the neighborhood.  These boys and girls work  enthusiastically in all kinds of communitarian jobs and are present in all of the activities geared at the welfare of others. The obstacle they encountered is that they had not been able to establish an axis or mainstay for the process they were working on.  The National University students arrived in Mochuelo Bajo at the end of the year 2000. We proposed a series of exercises or workshops that would allow us to reflect and discuss. Our interaction gave birth to THE IDEA, as an articulating element for our work.

The idea

We want to present this project as an alternative way of thinking and studying the problem of citizenship and participation, considering the fact that Colombia's social situation demands concrete actions from each of us. Starting with readings and considerations, we have initiated an educational proposal that wants to open the way for the building of a community of thought that goes beyond a group of people sharing a geographical space.

It is not difficult to detect that the kind of relationships surrounding subject performance in modern society is one in which contracts, sale and purchase, retribution and interest are key elements in nearly all-current social interaction.  We feel that this kind of relationships have driven communal organizations and communities themselves to be seen as primitive ways of living and organization.   At the same time we are worried about the process of globalization, which is calling on us to become part of the global village while we seem to be unattached pieces in family, school, neighborhood, city or nation. That is why we want to propose alternatives for the transformation of this current kind of social relationship into a more humane and less instrumental one. At the same time we want this process to strengthen the small groups, communal organizations, neighborhoods and schools.  Now we think that it is necessary to build live meanings for words such as cooperation, collaboration, solidarity, and participation. We conclude that language is our master tool. In this Project we have been exploring language from its different perspectives, we have experimented with dancing, acting, writing and movies. These experiments have shown very positive results and we think that an educational proposal focused on language is very appropriate.

The worshops

After talking with the boys and girls from Mochuelo about our personal academic experiences, it was not difficult to find some failures in the education system. One main root of these failures is the poor development of communication skills [see Hymes and Dell: About communicative competence.] In other words, traditional education does not explore into language and this lack of interest does not allow for the development of certain mental capacities that make reflection, participation and organization possible.

"People need to be experts in language in order to be able to participate effectively in a democracy. It is senseless to have access to information that you cannot understand or to have the opportunity of proposing policies that you cannot formulate.  People receive information and bad information in different amounts from, among others, family and friends, work partners, publicist, journalists, priests, politicians and other groups.  A democratic society needs people who have the linguistic abilities that allow them to argue, evaluate and make sense of what is said, as well as act effectively on the basis of their comprehension. The functioning of a democracy depends on a discriminative use of language by its entire people.  Otherwise there cannot be genuine participation, only the imposition of the ideas of those who are linguistically capable. As individuals, as well as members of electoral bodies, people need language resources in order to defend their rights and accomplish their obligations."(Language Teaching Committee:  Department of education and science Great Britain) We propose 6 language exploration workshops studying it from its different manifestations, the written and spoken language workshop will serve as the axis for the others. This workshop pretends to make people aware of the importance of learning how to write and read not only in the written code but in the artistic languages of their choice.. The aim is for them to be able to organize a performance, discuss and build its content and sense.  This workshop is permanent and we have been working on it one a week for the last 6months. The second workshop is a film club that aims at gathering community members interested in developing an appreciation of audio-visual language.  This activity has only been carried out once and the  feedback was positive towards the social theme movies that, by touching sensitive points, can generate key reflections and discussions for all. The other four workshops are thought to be an art initiation for young people who prefer to express themselves through music, theater, painting and dancing. The workshops will be offered as an opportunity for young people from Mochuelo to learn the basis of artistic education in order to be able to express and argument their subjectivity, their disagreement, their criticisms and their proposals through art language.  These workshops are programmed to start by February 2002 on weekends and holidays.. Depending on the financial support we can get, we will determine the duration of the workshops.. The workshops will be designed and developed  by volunteer students from the National University and ASAB (Academia Superior de Artes de Bogotá).  Young people between 14and 24 can participate as students and members of the communal work group. We expect to perform the first  Cultural Festival of Mochuelo Bajo.    For this festival, we expect to have the participation of a group of senior citizens who will be able to work with the people studying in the workshops. The aim is to build spaces for the exchange of knowledge and experience, the festival will be a multicultural and intergenerational activity.

The resources

We mainly need materials for our workshops and performances, as well as some equipment for our Film Club. Any kind support, partial or total, in equipment or funds, will assure that we can continue contributing in a process of communal work that is over a year old. This project advocates for direct participation in a very small community; in other words, our quantitative goals are not high, but our aim for qualitative changes are very ambitious. Finally, we want to appeal to our fellow citizens to cooperate with other similar processes that not only need financial support but human and intellectual resources as well..

Jalver Uyaban: compa21@yahoo.com

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