Gabriel Antonio Mejía Montoya, Father Gabriel, is honoured by World’s Children’s Prize for his more than 30-year struggle for Colombia’s vulnerable children – street children, child soldiers and children sentenced to prison.
Father Gabriel has dedicated his life to helping the poor. He has faced several attempts on his life as a result of his work. During a war in Colombia that has lasted more than 60 years, almost six million people have been forced to flee their homes and over 200,000 have been killed. Children have been severely affected.
When, at the age of 37, Gabriel saw the street children living outside his home he founded the Hogares Claret foundation and its first centre for street children. Today, the foundation runs 52 children’s centres. They care for 4,000 children and young people who have lived as street children or child soldiers, as well as children serving their sentences in the foundation’s detention centres for young people. The efforts of Gabriel and Hogares Claret have improved the lives of tens of thousands of children.
Father Gabriel fights for children that society has turned its back on. He says love is the most important medicine. Doctors, psychologists and social workers live together with the children. They listen to the children and take part in their daily activities. The children are offered education and therapy. They have yoga sessions and meditate every day. The therapy at Hogares Claret includes all children and young people joining the Scouts. They learn good values, to show empathy, be fair, not to judge others and to show respect and take responsibility.