Tiempo de Juego was born from simple pick-up soccer games in Altos de Cazucá, a community on the outskirts of Bogotá populated primarily by desplazados, "the displaced." Displaced communities like Altos de Cazucá and Cartagena where Tiempo de Juego operates are among the most low-income, marginalized, and violent in Colombia. Government cost-cutting measures have reduced education budgets, and as a result children spend only half of the day in school, leaving them with unstructured free time and vulnerable to recruitment by gangs or teenage pregnancy.
The aim of Tiempo de Juego is to fill up this free time with meaningful recreational activities grounded in the methodology of “Fútbol para la Paz” (Football for Peace), a psychosocial technique for building cooperation, critical thinking, confidence, and other skills necessary to counter negative societal influences. No one is turned away and the activities are free for everyone. What began as one Escuela de Fútbol in 2006 has now evolved into several after-school and weekend programs, including breakdancing, journalism, art, and basketball. For every activity the core structure consists of the same three parts:
- The topic of the week is introduced (for example, self-esteem). The team then agrees on the rules of the game to reflect the topic.
- Participants implement and monitor the activity based on the rules.
- Both teams evaluate how well the rules were followed and homework related to the topic is assigned.
The model is unique in that the activities are almost completely student-run. To make the program sustainable and a true practice in community-building, Tiempo de Juego has created a pipeline to develop leaders through the program. 13-18 year olds can volunteer to become monitores, the monitors of the games, and then graduate to become actual employees of Tiempo de Juego as community managers.
After first establishing their credibility within the community of Cazucá, Tiempo de Juego expanded from the field to the classroom by partnering with six local schools. Through Tiempo de Juego va al Colegio, teachers are trained over two days in Tiempo de Juego's methodolgy and given the tools to apply it in their classrooms. For instance, a teacher might select a monitor at the start of every class to monitor the behavior of his peers. This is accompanied by weekly follow-ups and classroom evaluations. The model is not about changing curriculum but engaging students in awareness and practice of positive behaviors while learning.
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Tiempo de Juego specifically goes into communities populated by large amounts of desplazados. It is not just an education program, but a project for rebuilding communities of primarily displaced populations -- many of which do not own their own land or have opportunities to advance economically. Many still remain vulnerable to paramilitary violence or recruitment from drug gangs.
Although not a gender-specific program, Tiempo de Juego has specific provisions for female inclusion. For instance, a rule for every soccer game is that a girl must score the first goal. More recently, Tiempo de Juego has developed a group for 50 girls which aims to support women's rights and development. With help from Women Win, the group has a sexual health unit to counteract teenage pregnancy in the area.
Tiempo de Juego offers teacher training programs in 6 schools in Altos de Cazucá.
Altos de Cazucá: 1,724 children attending activities, 600 attend at least once a week, 43 monitores, 8 community managers
Cartagena: 500 children attending activities, 15 monitores
Tiempo de Juego began in 2006 with a few kids playing soccer on the weekends and since then has grown to over 1,700 students and 15 different activities in Altos de Cazucá. In 2009, the program was replicated in Cartagena, where it serves 500 students. Tiempo de Juego’s participants are the program’s biggest promoters so growth is fairly spontaneous. After attending activities, students often return with their friends since Tiempo de Juego is a fun and safe option in an area which does not offer many alternatives. Now that Tiempo de Juego has entered schools in Altos de Cazucá, there has been a dramatic increase in the growth of its after-school activities.
Tiempo de Juego’s evolution is an inversion of the norm. Rather than beginning in schools and expanding outward, Tiempo de Juego began as a community-building initiative and then entered schools. The advantage in this is it allowed the organization to garner a good reputation prior to engaging with teachers and principals. This made schools more likely to agree to the teacher training program.
Because Tiempo de Juego is a community-based program which aims to become self-sustaining through developing leadership among its participants, the organization is currently concentrating on strengthening its existing programs in Altos de Cazucá and Cartagena rather than expanding to new areas.