The name of the organization Civisol is composed from the terms “Civism” and “Solidarity” and it expresses the joint idea of civic engagement and active solidarity in contemporary human behavior and social organization.

CIVISOL develops from prior experiences developed in Colombia in the cities of Cali and Bogota in the eighties and nineties. During these decades, the school and university life of the first of CIVISOL’s founders, many fellow students and friends joined COTAN and ASENTIR which were civil society organizations that served as platforms of youth community action in their city. This experience of civism with regard to the challenges faced by a community living together as a city and of solidarity with those that law and society has left behind, is the basis of the slowly distilled understanding of law, poverty and civil society on which CIVISOL forged and was founded.

Because past efforts are the roots of present actions, these is the history and memorabilia of the two anticipated expressions of CIVISOL:

1983 -1989 Comparte tu Alegría en Navidad in Cali, Colombia

At the beginning of junior high students of the Colombo Britanico School came together around this initiative aimed to share -to redistribute- Christmas joy, presents, food and spare time of the holiday season off school with street children and the senior citizens who were living homeless abandoned on Cali streets. The initiative then expanded to students of other private schools such as the Jefferson, Berchmans and Bolivar schools, and through them their parents and the corporations they owned or worked in became involved.

The youth network of Comparte tu Alegria en Navidad convened during the last three months of the year to sell 10 tickets to a Christmas raffle which has an extremely low, ridiculous prize, precisely to trigger discussion and create the opportunity to exchange on the importance of the underlying gesture of solidarity rather than the potential reward or prize offered. It allowed to become aware of poverty, the irrelevance and isolation in which other people in the city were found and making a gesture to alleviate it. The idea sold behind the act of buying the raffle ticket was knowing that during Christmas Eve while opening presents unexpectedly someone somewhere was also receiving yours and along it a bit of hope. With the money collected from the sale of the raffle tickets in Cali, toys were purchased wrapped in special Christmas sessions of preparation and then handed out though out town by those COTAN members who wanted to do so on the nights of the 22, 23 and 24 of December.

Towards the end of the initiative, and with the involvement of parents, adults and even the local police, it was possible to grow the initiative to encompass all the street children of the city of Cali. The last years of COTAN, and the contribution of extraordinary adult benefactors the amusement park of the city was made open free, a huge Christmas lunch was sponsored and prepared for the street children, the police’s orchestra performed in their community house while parents of the COTAN network disguised as Santa Claus or supported their young daughters and sons civic engagement and active solidarity within their city and with fellow human beings in all sorts of manners from cash to in-kind donations. The initiative wrapped-up when the generation leading the initiative graduated from high school in 1989.

Comparte tu Alegria en Navidad was possible by the action and commitment of (insert)

 

1990-1995 ASENTIR Colombia

The ASENTIR initiative was not an episodic network of voluntary and volunteering action but an organization that was unregistered but structured and permanent in its activities. It was created in Universidad de Los Andes Bogota in the 90’s developed from the understanding of poverty and exclusion that was gathered during the prior initiative in Cali in the eighties, instead of offering a charity and benevolence private response, the young professional students of ASENTIR Colombia were invited to apply their knowledge and sympathy to provide strategic leverage and social support to young adults, marginalized teenagers and children living on the streets of Bogota. A benefactor offered ASENTIR an office in a beautiful traditional house of Bogota where the organization set next-door to AIESEC for a while.

Members of ASENTIR would go once or twice a week to the places where late at night street children and teenagers could be found. ASENTIR’s members would not give handouts or presents, but engage in a dialogue to get to know the children and teenagers, and exchanges ideas with them to learn about their lives, dreams, and aspirations. When possible the team would seek to support or accelerate their life plans or dreams. Youngsters over the age of 14 were counseled and supported in the search of trading occupation, technical education, and youth employment. The very young they were referred to allied NGOs like Fundacion Niños de los Andes and Bosconia which provided shelter and education. Field work made clear that there were solid barriers impeding their development out of vulnerability and scarcity. ASENTIR began advocating the most prominent one which was their lack of legal identity, the importance of getting a name stating their nationality and carrying ID cards to grant them access to public services and formal opportunities. Asentir also gradually started making them aware and knowledgeable of their human rights in spite of the little to none realization of their legal rights such a personal freedom, locomotion liberty and to receive equal, fair and respectful treatment from police and other authorities as directly enshrined in the recently promulgated 1991 Colombian Constitution.

With the completion of university studies members of Asentir had to disband in order to start their new professional lives, most of them carry in their own jobs, families and social circles the same civic engagement with their country and city and active solidarity with humankind and its environment that brought them together as ASENTIR during their university years.

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