Santa Rosa is a school located in Comuna 13, a district that includes some of the most dangerous neighborhoods in Cali. The area around the school was overgrown with weeds and poorly lit. Drug dealers recruited students from the school to use and sell drugs, and gang activity made it difficult to get to school safely.
The local mesa organized community members to clean up the green areas around the school that were covered in garbage from illegal dumping. They planted trees and flowers and cut the grass. The city provided dump trucks to haul off the debris and put up fencing around the basketball court and garden. The mesa recruited ex-gang members to paint murals on walls surrounding the court, which were covered in graffiti.
Now the area is clean and well-lit, with flowers blooming around the school, and the city is working with gang members in the area to mediate conflict. As a result, drug activity has been reduced dramatically and the school and surrounding area has become a safe place to gather in the neighborhood.
The graduation rate of the school has doubled, as fewer students are being recruited outside the school by gangs. “We’re stealing the workforce of the drug dealers,” said the school principal.