After graduating in communication, I started working in a NGO and a private company. After five years, I realized that clerical work was not my thing at all, I needed human contact. So I followed my heart and flew in the late 1980s to Medellin, in the heart of Colombia. I experienced a true adventure that made me feel really useful.
Christine Meert, Co-founder of the Proyectarte ASBL in Medelinn, Colombia
An ASBL whose mission is to give psycho-social support through art
In Colombia, the post-war period is difficult. The artistic expression can help young people to rebuild themselves and give a second breath to their lives despite a difficult context.
Obviously, since I arrived at the apogee of drug traffickers, this was not the most secure period. At that time, Medellin was torn by the drug cartels. In the neighborhood where I lived, all the people had lost at least one member of their family because of the violence. Their living conditions were difficult due to economic poverty. Many of my neighbors had suffered from forced displacement from the countryside to the city but they had an extraordinary strength of resilience. Sharing time with them and making friends with these people was a true school of life. I could understand the context and it was very useful for me to better understand children and young people that I was going to accompany.
During my early years in Colombia, I worked in a Don Bosco center that was hosting children living on the streets. This accompanying mission was a real challenge because the children lacked concentration and were mostly under the influence of drugs .
I wanted to fully train myself for this task and I discovered the German Steiner pedagogy. It was an excellent tool to promote the development of the child to his or her fullest potential and guide him/her towards its expression. Art in all its forms, whether through painting, music or drawing, plays a major role in the learning and development of the child. The latter will have the opportunity to acquire creative resources as well as the sense of initiative and responsibilities with a specific cycle adapted to his/her evolution every 7 years.
The result was surprising! The same children who had a low self-esteem were beginning to discover the treasure in their inner being and to create beautiful things. I have continued to work with other similar organizations, always with young people in situations of violence. I also studied plastic art to deepen my knowledge and develop my artistic approach.
The result was surprising! The same children who had a low self-esteem were beginning to discover the treasure in their inner being and to create beautiful things.
The Proyectarte ASBL
In 2010, in parallel with the work in institutions, I co-created the ASBL Proyectarte with 2 other partners. Our mission is to give a psycho-social support through art. We started a first project with 400 young people from protective institutions and from different neighborhoods particularly affected by violence. Today, we continue in the same line. We accompany 400 children and teenagers from the peripheral area of Medellin. We are also developing two pilot projects: one with young people who were part of the guerrilla and the other in the countryside, in a village particularly affected by the armed conflict.
The impact of art on young people
In Colombia, the post-war period is difficult because young people must rebuild themselves both externally and internally. Expressing oneself through art can be an alternative to give a second breath to their lives despite a challenging context. Thanks to this pedagogy combining both art and psychology, I was able to accompany young people through their evolution, to see them find themselves and develop their potential to start again on a sound basis. With the whole team, we want to continue our projects in town and in the rural sector. We also want to develop a communication strategy to enable young people to spread positive experiences and learn from each other. We think, for example, of adding a special training about historical memory and peace education so that young people can know their history and avoid repeating it.