Funding Line 2

Young Man’s Christian Association Colombia

Project Name Young Leaders and Entrepreneurs in Colombia
(Component of the Paza la Paz Project)
Commisioned by German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Country Colombia
Implementing Organisation Young Man’s Christian Association (YMCA) Colombia –
Duration December 2021 – May 2023

The Challenge

Additional Negative Impacts of the Pandemic: For nearly six decades, Colombia has suffered an internal armed conflict. Additionally, the health emergency unleashed by the COVID-19 pandemic affected the whole country but especially the most vulnerable communities. Many young people and children dropped out of school since they did not have electronic devices or internet connection to adapt to virtual education.

Challenges of the Young Generation: Most young people in Colombia lack opportunities to access education, health, recreation, citizen participation and decent employment. The income of young people is found around only half the current national minimum wage. Young people have the highest unemployment and underemployment rates and the worst hiring conditions in the country, pushing them into jobs without social protection and stability. This may lead disadvantaged youth to join groups outside the law thus perpetuating the difficult conditions of violence and social violation in which the country continues to be immersed.

The Objective

The project is a component of the national Paza la Paz Project. The objective of the overall project is to generate opportunities for vulnerable young people, and to promote their inclusion and empowerment.

The funding of the Recover Better Support Fund has the purpose to scale-up the Youth Entrepreneurship component of the project, offering young people opportunities to overcome poverty conditions.

The Target Group

The project targets youth between 14 and 28 living in poverty. Special attention is paid to youth who are internally displaced, to migrants, teenage mothers or fathers, victims of violence or youthengaged in informal activities, such as street sales.

About YMCA Colombia

The YMCA was established in Colombia in 1964, operating nine branches nationwide nowadays. The Association works primarily with children and young people in situations of high vulnerability, the population of popular sectors or victims of violence, and natural disasters.  Its work is taking into account social gaps, inequity and exclusion. Therefore, programs are based on a rights-based approach, seeking to improve the living conditions, equity and peace building of young people, especially in terms of employment, peace and quality of life.


The Approach

Two Stages of Training in the Paza la Paz Project: The training of young participants is divided in two stages. The first stage – called “Preparation/ Enlistment” – is a basic training in which young people develop competences concerning personal growth and life skills. In the second stage – the “Specific Training” – participants are trained in one of three components according to their interests, namely Coexistence and Peace, Organization and Youth Participation; or Youth Entrepreneurship.

Contribution of the Recover Better Support Fund: The Fund seeks to strengthen and upscale the component of Youth Entrepreneurship for 300 additional youth through either the provision of technical and vocational training, job coaching or support in starting a microenterprise.

The Employability Action Line seeks to enable young people to develop job search skills, get connected with decent job opportunities or access to educational opportunities.

The Technical and Vocational Training Action Line connects young people with educational institutions of technical, formal, and informal training that allow them to develop skills and pursue a career.

The Social or Economic Entrepreneurship Action Line focuses on youth who want to be independent workers and project themselves as entrepreneurs. To achieve this, participants can develop a business idea, that will allow them to generate income (Economic or productive entrepreneurship) or offers solutions to social problems faced by their community (Social entrepreneurship).

Achieved Results

  1. 307 youth were trained in life skills and personal growth
  2. 94 youth have access to technical, technological or higher education training opportunities
  3. 307 youth improved their income by either occupying a job or consolidating an enterprise
  4. 51 youth lead social or economic enterprises were strengthened

Ophir Victoria

Entrepreneur Leader

In the context of sustainable development, what do you consider the greatest challenge that you help to overcome in your country? What is special about your project and approach, with regard to the context in which it is located?

The biggest challenge that I encountered during the development of the Paza La Paz entrepreneurship project was reducing inequalities. The project focuses on a vulnerable population that faces significant social and economic disparities, which makes it difficult for them to access opportunities like higher education and decent employment. What sets this project apart is its holistic impact on individuals. It provides tools for personal and professional growth, which is a unique aspect that other programs for young people and vulnerable populations do not typically offer. As a result, young people are eager to participate in the project and see it as a way to improve their quality of life.

Let’s get specific: What was your most significant project success? What was especially important/notable? What are you particularly proud of having achieved?

The most significant and successful achievement of the project, from my perspective, is intangible yet extremely valuable. It involves a shift in the mindset of young people regarding their future. In a socio-cultural context where young people are expected to start working at an early age, sometimes even before completing their studies, it is noteworthy that the project has encouraged young people to consider higher education and entrepreneurship as viable means of improving their quality of life and that of their families. This change in perception is a tremendous accomplishment for the young people involved, their families, and future generations, as education is essential for personal development and accessing opportunities. Being part of the team that helps young people construct their life projects and being able to contribute to achieving these goals one step at a time is a privilege I am proud of.

What have you learned and what experiences would you like to share with like-minded actors/practitioners?

I believe that being involved in this project has transformed the way I teach and interact with young people. Each meeting provided an opportunity to learn from one another, including the children’s experiences and personalities. Over the course of several months, I witnessed the personal growth of these children, from completing their school education to embarking on their university studies or pursuing employment or entrepreneurship. While there are still many challenges that lie ahead, I am confident that the project has equipped them with the necessary skills to overcome these obstacles. I particularly enjoy hearing about their progress during our personalized counseling sessions. Some share their experiences, such as baking their first French bread or navigating their first university classes, while others discuss their business ideas or keep their thoughts to themselves. Regardless, I am proud of their growth and grateful to be a part of this life-changing project that instills hope for a better future.


Gloria Esmeralda Laverde

Entrepreneur Leader
YMCA Santander

In the context of sustainable development, what do you consider the greatest challenge that you help to overcome in your country? What is special about your project and approach, with regard to the context in which it is located?

I believe that this project has made a significant contribution to sustainable development by promoting the development of individuals and improving their quality of life through various opportunities. These opportunities include providing economic support for entrepreneurial ideas and offering academic activities for professional training. One aspect that stands out is the project’s strong emphasis on practical training, coupled with the provision of the necessary support and resources for the participants to apply the knowledge gained. Furthermore, the program was well-received in the municipality, and it had a positive impact on three different communities that were located far apart, demonstrating the project’s reach and effectiveness. Overall, I am proud to have been a part of this project and to have witnessed firsthand the positive changes it has brought about for the individuals and communities involved.

Let’s get specific: What was your most significant project success? What was especially important/notable? What are you particularly proud of having achieved?

From my experience, the most significant achievement of the project was witnessing the realization of the ventures, and seeing how the ideas that were once just concepts in our meetings smoothly transitioned into the real market. I believe that the field trips and the space provided for entrepreneurship fairs were especially remarkable. These outings allowed the participants to have a real-world experience of their enterprise, to gain income from their sales, and to improve their strategies, publicity, and adaptability. I am also very proud of the support we provided to the entrepreneurship group. We were able to provide seed capital to several children and partial support to others, enabling them to move forward with their enterprise. With the kids in the vocational component, I am excited to see many of them currently studying and building opportunities for their future. These accomplishments contribute to sustainable development by improving people’s quality of life through economic and academic opportunities.

What have you learned and what experiences would you like to share with like-minded actors/practitioners?

During the project, I learned some valuable lessons. Firstly, working in the community, I was impressed by the participant’s eagerness to improve themselves, find opportunities, and take advantage of what was offered to them. Witnessing their enthusiasm and awareness of how they could utilize their environment was gratifying. Secondly, one of the most significant experiences was seeing how many participants living in Veredas eagerly attended the workshops, despite having to walk for almost an hour to reach the meeting point. I personally verified their commitment during individual accompaniments. From an administrative perspective, the team was excellent, providing clear guidance, accompaniment, order, and guidelines for activities. Structurally, I appreciated the well-organized approach, especially being involved in the development of workshops, modules, and having a voice and vote in defining the training structure.