Myriam Parra at the school she opened for poor children in the town of Bugaramanga in northeastern Colombia. Copyright: WFP/David Parra
Myriam Parra was rescued from poverty by a turn of good fortune. Now she’s set up a school in rural Colombia where kids who aren’t as lucky can get an education. As Myriam’s first partner, WFP is making sure her students get the nutritious food they need to learn and grow.
BOGOTA -- Myriam Parra is in her mid-fifties. If it weren’t for the kindness of her smile, it would be hard to tell how old she is. She always seems happy and always ready to help any of the many kids in the school she founded a couple of years ago: The Piccoli Saggi foundation, a small school located in the Comuneros neighbourhood, in Bucaramanga, north east Colombia.
“When I was a small girl, we were really poor. Things were sometimes so bad that we didn’t even have enough money to eat. Then I got married and started a family. I have four kids. Then my husband, who was in the Colombian Army, was relocated to the Colombian Embassy in Italy.”
“Can you imagine that? Me? The poor girl who used to clean up windows to help her family living in Italy? It was like a dream. While I was there I decided that I had to give back to the community, to give more children the same opportunities I had. “
“So when we came back to Colombia we founded this small institution and I named Piccolo Saggi, which means Small Geniuses in Italian. And now look at us! We assist 185 children every day in this centre alone. They receive education, health services and, most important, nutritious food, because everything is linked. With good nutrition these kids have the strength to play and learn and they are healthy.”
“When we started this project, we didn’t have anything. We started knocking on doors and WFP was the first one that opened for us. WFP is our partner, our friend and our adviser. Without their support, we wouldn’t be here because the whole thing started when we received food assistance for these children.”
“Of course we have limitations,” repeats Myriam “But I won’t give up. After WFP gave us the first assistance, a lot of people and institutions have helped us with different things. The first challenge was to give these kids a proper meal and that was solved. Then we needed to give them education and many universities have supported us with students who do their field training and interact with the children. We also have made agreements with universities to provide paediatric, dental and health services."
“Later I learned that Unilever, the company that makes the margarine, were also a big partner of WFP. So even big companies are helping a small school like Piccolo Saggi! I have nothing but gratitude to Unilever, to and to all the people that has made this possible. 185 children assisted in this center and more than 4,000 people assisted with health services, sanitation training and other initiatives implemented in the neighbourhoods where these kids come from, wouldn’t been possible without the support of the people who believed in us, and I will never forget the fantastic team working at WFP who reach out us first.”
David Parra is a media specialist with a Masters degree in Visual Arts. He joined WFP in 2003 and reports on its challenges and achievements in Colombia. For David, communications offer a voice to those who struggle to be heard.