Jaime Jaramillo and the Street Children of Colombia
In 1973 a wealthy businessman Jaime Jaramillo was walking along the streets of Bogota in Colombia when he saw a young girl climbing down through a manhole into the sewers below. Jaime went home, put on a wet suit and then followed the girl into the sewers and to his amazement he discovered about 90 children who were living in the sewers. One girl was pregnant!
Jaramillo has described the sewers with horrifying clarity:
“You have to be very strong, physically and mentally. The smell is terrible, there are rats splashing all the time, mosquitoes and leeches and flying insects. You lose your strength because it is so slippery. You have to be careful not to fall, because you get that stuff in your mouth and you have diarrhoea for thirty days.”
Tragically, vigilante gangs were killing the children when they lived on the pavements above the sewers. One of them said – “Killing these kids is like killing lice. We call them ‘the disposables’”. Jaime set about helping the children and he has now rescued 350 young people. His wife does not like her husband visiting the sewers but is convinced that Jaime is protected by God when he goes ‘down under’. Jaramillo has used his wealth to build a special home for the ‘sewer’ kids in the mountains. Here they receive an education and live in a loving Christian community. One of the many girls that Jaime has rescued is now playing the violin for the Colombian National Orchestra.
Jaime also appreciates the good life. He holidays in the Carribean and when at home enjoys sinking into his jacuzzi with a glass of brandy!
The significance of the story:
Jaime Jaramillo is living in a Christian story where ‘loving people’ is much more important than ‘loving things’. Tragically some Colombians are living in a completely different story. For these ‘hit-men’ the value of a person is measured in terms of wealth and financial success. Several years ago a Brazilian assassin left a ‘calling card’ on the corpse of a nine year old girl, Patricia Hilario da Silva which reads like this –
“I killed you because you didn’t study and had no future.”
Application in schools
THEMES: Human worth / Value of life / Success / Poverty / Redemption
CONTEXT: Citizenship lesson / RE illustration of Christian living / Great story to have up your sleeve for a conversation about what it looks like to live out your faith.
Question for students:
1) Have you ever visited a sewer?
2) Why do some people live in sewers?
3) Why do rats enjoy the sewer environment?
4) Why has Jaime Jaramillo dedicated his life to rescuing the sewer children?
5) What story is he living in?
6) Why do some Colombian people believe that the sewer children are the ‘disposables’?
7) Look at Colossians 1:13. How does Jaime Jaramillo’s story help us to understand this verse?
This resource was written by Mark Roques who works for Reality Bites. For more stories and resources go to - http://www.realitybites.org.uk/blog/