|© UNICEF Venezuela/2004|
|Humberto Elías Orozco, 11, lives in Vargas, Venezuela.|
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MACUTO DISTRICT, Venezuela, 17 September 2004 - Humberto Elías Orozco, 11, is in the 5th grade in Vargas State, Venezuela. Humberto likes to help people; therefore, he has taken on the role of President of the Student Center for the Promotion and Defense of Children’s Rights.
The Center is a place where children and adolescents alike can discuss issues and express their views. This right is recognized in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Constitution of Venezuela and Venezuela’s Organic Law for Child and Adolescent Protection (Ley Orgánica para la Protección del Niño y del Adolescente - LOPNA).
Like many other students in his school, Humberto enjoyed participating in educational workshops about rights. Recounting his experiences in the workshops, Humberto says, “You try to coexist in peace and harmony. We made cards and we wrote about rights. For example, we worked on the notion of no discrimination and other related topics. We interpreted how rights are violated through the dramatization of a play.”
“It was a lot of fun,” he continues, with evident enthusiasm. “And besides, since we had the workshops, the behavior of my peers has changed. Before, they were running, knocking each other over, shouting and fighting amongst themselves. And now all these behaviors have changed. You try to explain it bit by bit, getting them involved, because if you feed it to them in one gigantic spoonful they don’t want to change their behavior.”
During the workshops, up to 24 students gather in groups of 4 to 5 people. During card making, mural painting, and presentations about rights, they discuss ideas and share their views. Every single student has an opportunity to participate and contribute. The students come from five student centers administered by the municipalities of Carlos Soublette, Maiquetía, Naiquatá, Caruao and Macuto. Technical and financial support is provided by UNICEF.
“Now that we are working with LOPNA in Vargas State, we try to restore all the rights that seem to have been violated. While doing this, you help create a sense of public awareness,” says Humberto. “We can see that the situation has changed. Before, adolescents committed minor offenses and people would say ‘it’s trivial… it’s not hurting anyone.’ Now we take steps to do something about this. If I’m 12 years old and I commit a petty crime, well, I have to pay for it in some way.”
Humberto knows LOPNA very well and helps his peers in understanding the significance of being an individual with rights, which, for him, also means being aware of one’s obligations. “I have the right to be respected, but if I don’t respect you, how are you going to respect me?” Humberto likes mathematics, and notes that music is not one of his favorite subjects. He says he would like to study law someday.