**They grant participants a valuable task and new friends and reduce the burden of their relatives**
The following article is about Saludarte, an association from Bogotá that focus on providing socially valuable tasks and social contacts to mentally disabled people. Sharing some time with the patients, to talk and to work with them was one of my personally greatest moments in South America. The visit provided me with distinct view in relation to what tourist visitors normally get to experience. I got invited by the founder Marithza Barroso and I put together some visual impressions. Also, I want to share my thoughts that I put to paper when I came back from my visit.
On the one hand I realized that the Colombian society is now able to provide solutions to people who would have been left behind 15 years ago. There is a new thinking about other people, hence a sign for growing wealth. It shows that Colombia has been able to provide its people with the chance to grow beyond the level of pure fight for existence. It is not deniable that the country with the two coastlines still suffers corruption and violence but the growing middleclass and education was able to reduce them in a way that 99.99% of tourists will not get in contact with it.
They built their own neat and quite universe in the middle of the stressed metropolis’ backyard. They have an almost normal life. They work and in the same time they keep their social contacts.
When I took myself some time they warmly welcomed me. The participants were interested in me and my task as the observer. They talked slowly, thoughtful and in simple words. I felt that they are honest and that they ask others to do so as well. In the beginning I had difficulties to evaluate where I could take a conversation to and where not. Rapidly I realized that there was an unusual high affinity to foreign languages and travel, but nobody had kids. Almost all spoke good English and visited other countries. A woman told me about her trip to Germany in 1972 for the Olympic games in Munich. As I listened to them, parallels grew to my own life, which made me thinking.
They were intelligent and highly sensitive people. Also, they have not been nervous when I slowly began to shoot some footage.
They had easy tasks to do like packing vegetables, fruit and cheese from the farms of Subachoque, near Bogotá. They were truly happy with it, took breaks whenever they felt taking one, they danced to the salsa music from the CD player. Also the nurses seemed relaxed and participated in these little side activities. It is not often that I saw true emotions like that.
The patients valued having contact to people with similar problems, it helps them not to feel alone. The fact that they can be a part of the Colombian society, in other words be helpful has been appreciated by all of them. Also taking part in this project would help reduce medical doses and the time they need to stay in hospital.
I know that projects like these also exist in other countries but I did not expect this particular project to be what it was: Some people being together to enhance their life and the one of their relatives.
More info: http://saludarte.co/