OAS, PADF and Colombia Expand Partnership to Build Youth Centers

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22 community centers established since 2011

$1.7 million agreement to build six new centers and support existing ones

Washington, D.C (November 5, 2015) – With an investment of USD $1.7 million from the Government of Colombia, the Organization of American States through the Pan American Development Foundation (PADF) signed an agreement to develop six new community centers for at-risk youth and provide ongoing support for an existing network of centers in isolated rural areas and underserved urban neighborhoods.

Through the OAS, PADF has worked with Colombia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs since 2011 to address the growing number of youth who are being targeted by criminal networks. By constructing community centers or “Casas Ludicas,” the goal is to combat and mitigate young people from being recruited by armed groups and gangs. These centers provide outreach including psychosocial, remedial education, organized youth and sports activities, as well as access to computers, books, and family counseling.  

Together, PADF Colombia and the Colombian government have built 22 youth centers throughout the country, four sport and recreational facilities, two community cafeterias, one bicycle racetrack, and a rugby field, serving more than 75,000 families. In partnership with the OAS, PADF has received nearly $17 million from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to carry out this initiative. 

“We are pleased to provide a space where Colombian children can safely pursue education, sports and other healthy activities,” says Luis Almagro, Secretary General of the Organization of American States. “These youth centers demonstrate the Colombian government’s commitment to empowering young people and fostering a new generation of community leaders.”

This latest grant will provide funding for six youth centers, most of them located in border areas near Venezuela and Ecuador, in the communities of Paraguachón-Maicao, Guajira Department; Cartagena, Bolívar Department; Tibú, Santander Department; Ocaña, Santander Department; Tumaco, Nariño Department; and Cumaribo, Vichada Department. Youth centers are located in strategic areas throughout the country with high incidences of criminal activity. They demonstrate Colombian government presence and a commitment to serving the needs of the country’s diverse population, especially at-risk youth. 

“These centers serve as focal points for community groups to address underlying social issues impacting youth and driving many of them into a life of crime,” says PADF Colombia Country Director Soraya Osorio. “PADF is pleased to continue its work to support vulnerable youth in Colombia and to aid in the development of underserved areas in the country.”

PADF implements the grant by constructing the youth centers and facilitating community engagement. For each center, PADF Colombia works with local communities and municipal officials to develop a management and sustainability plan.  


The Pan American Development Foundation, a 501(c) (3) nonprofit organization, brings together many stakeholders to improve livelihoods, empower communities, strengthen civil society, support human rights, protect the environment and respond to natural disasters in Latin America and the Caribbean. Established by the Organization of American States (OAS) in 1962, PADF has worked in every country in the region. In 2014, PADF reached more than 15 million people by investing over $92 million in development resources in 27 Latin American and Caribbean countries. www.padf.org

About the OAS

Established in 1948, the Organization of American States brings together all 35 independent states of the Americas and constitutes the main political, juridical, and social governmental forum in the Hemisphere. In addition, it has granted permanent observer status to 69 states, as well as to the European Union (EU). The OAS uses a four-pronged approach to effectively implement its essential purposes, based on its main pillars: democracy, human rights, security, and development. www.oas.org


Mónica Reyes
Press office
Organization of American States

Press contacts:

Hearly Mayr
Director of Communications and Public Affairs
Pan American Development Foundation