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Difference Maker

Chepe Ubaque survived Colombia's mean streets. Now he helps others do the same.

Hip-hop, graffiti, break dancing, and journalism programs give teens in Colombia a safe way to express themselves – and avoid violence.

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Many of the participants in lyric writing and drawing workshops focus on politics, which Ubaque says is missing in the mainstream music scene in Colombia. Lack of basic public services like clean water, and the risks of being forced into armed groups, are two themes that teens feature in their songs and raps.

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During a recent graffiti workshop, local street artist Fabian "Hash" Acosta peppered a small class of teenage boys with questions about the coming Soacha memorial event.

"Do you know about the falsos positivos?" he asked. Few of them did. But later they drafted sketches of a footprint, which would bear the names of the falsos positivos teenage boys.

Two weeks later, their plan was put into action at the memorial: Workshop members passed out cardboard cutouts of footprints with names, and people assembled them in the shape of one large footprint on the plaza.

As the event's emcee, Ubaque was both unassuming and magnetic. He introduced two raps about the desaparecidos, or disappeared people. Andres, the 10-year-old aspiring journalist from the workshop, made his rounds with a tape recorder, asking spectators about everything from their memories of Soacha to what they think has to be done to end the violence.

The event drew about 100 people and appeared to be a success. But Ubaque says that the foundation's lack of funds is limiting its possibilities. He wants to create a website, he says, and construct a recording studio for the teens.

"None of us is receiving any money," he says. "But we believe that it is possible to change Soacha in this way, that these young people have something important to offer Colombia. So we continue working."

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Donate / get involved

UniversalGiving helps people give to and volunteer for top-performing charitable organizations worldwide. Projects are vetted by UniversalGiving; 100 percent of each donation goes directly to the listed cause.

To support programs in Latin America, UniversalGiving recommends:

Let Kids be Kids Inc. is dedicated to advocating for people who have a desire to be heard but may not have a voice. Project: Support teen service in Colombia.

Cross-Cultural Solutions operates volunteer programs that partner with sustainable community initiatives. Project: Volunteer in Latin America with community-based projects.

Global Fund for Children invests in some of the best community-based groups, serving the most vulnerable children and youths. Project: Support recovery and renewal in Haiti.


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