At five years old, Jose left his home to escape his dad’s beatings. After a season in the streets, he ended up under state care in Bogotá, Colombia’s largest and most populous city. Despite the rough start, Jose emerged as a gentle-mannered, sweet, cheerful young man. A talented soccer player, he once had the chance to play in a European championship, only to be denied by bureaucratic barriers — a frustratingly common tale for many youth in state care.
In 2018, a social worker’s recommendation brought Jose to our doors at Viva Youth, a Christ-centered organization providing crucial support to at-risk youth exiting Colombia’s state care system. With us, they aren’t just individuals; they’re family, referred to as “Primos” or cousins, finding solace and an opportunity to heal emotionally while learning essential life skills.
Jose never finished high school, which was the responsibility of the orphan care institution. His communication and academic skills were deficient. Despite efforts to uncover any potential learning disabilities, no conclusive answers were found. After completing Viva Youth’s main life-skills training program, Jose still found himself on and off the streets. He would get on public transportation with a speaker and dance to hip-hop music for coins.
Over the years, our team at Viva Youth helped Jose find jobs, but only a few weeks later, he would come back, telling us that he was in the streets again. We built a “Jose Handbook” to prepare for his next visit. In our staff meetings, we discussed new and more creative approaches to getting him off the streets. Jose does not use drugs, does not drink, he is not violent. But stability remained elusive.
Then, in July 2022, a transformative moment arrived — Jose embraced faith and was baptized. The following six months saw both triumphs and challenges, yet a newfound openness to guidance emerged. Jose began seeking advice from Viva Youth, signaling a significant shift.
At another pivotal point in February 2023, bolstered by positive changes, we recommended Jose again to an employer. This time, he not only retained his job but excelled, becoming the gatekeeper at a clinical lab on a 1.5-acre property housing the Viva Youth non-profit. Ten months of steady employment shattered previous records, propelling him from a rented room to his furnished apartment.
Jose’s deep connections with the community of kids who exit state care in Bogota (the ones we call Primos) have made him crucial to our work. When Jose finds out that one of them needs help, he refers them to our Resource Center. When they are homeless, Jose’s apartment becomes transitional housing for them. When they hide from us, Jose keeps us updated on their whereabouts and personal situation.
Viva Youth’s 22-week program, while significant, required five years to witness Jose’s remarkable progress. The recurring lesson was clear—beyond programs, youth like Jose need a genuine community of faith that they can call family. Amidst a revolving door of social workers and psychologists, Viva Youth strives to provide enduring connections.
Pray for Jose as he pursues a high school diploma and technical certifications. His story, a witness to the transformative power of faith, community, and education, stands as a living testament to God’s love and Viva Youth’s unwavering support.
When you give to SAM ministries, SAM missionaries, and/or the Vision Fund, you support outreaches like Viva Youth in Colombia. SAM remains dedicated to our Christ-centered vision of Redeemed Lives, Beautiful Churches, and Transformed Communities. We are on mission together. Would you join us? Your donation is tax-deductible. DONATE TODAY!