Building Dreams and a Better Future

Your Impact: Valentina's Story

Valentina Jimenez's Story 


(English Translation)

Valentina working with her environmental program
Valentina helping community clean-up initiatives in Bogotá, Columbia

I am Eliana Valentina Jimenez Montoya and I was born on February 23, 2001 in Bogotá D.C. I am the daughter of Hamilton Jimenez and Leidy Jimenez and I also have a younger sister, Natalia Jimenez Montoya. Together, they make up my family. Growing up, my family has been dysfunctional, my parents argue often and say hurtful comments to me. My parents did not plan to have me and have told me that I was a mistake. 

My life was not easy. When I think about my childhood, I only remember screams and fights between my parents. I was often unable to communicate with my parents, so I would take refuge at my friends’ homes, thinking that it was a better environment for me. I had countless problems in school, in the neighborhood and on social media. When I was 14, my parents were fed up with my poor behavior at school, home and online. I had just made a huge mistake by posting something inappropriate on Facebook, which almost lead me to a correctional facility or a family well-being program.  My parents wanted to turn me in somewhere, as they said that I had gotten out of hand – so on October 2, 2015, I eventually made the decision to leave the house and was determined to not come back.

In my heart there was a lot of pain. I was hurt by my parents comments and neglect and had stayed out of my house for 21 days, seeing things happening on the streets far too inappropriate for a girl my age. I had soon learned that my dad had been on the news looking for me, so I decided to return home, hoping for a better future. Had I not seen my dad on the news, I would have stayed on the streets much longer. 
When I returned to my family, we went to live outside Bogotá to get away from the crime and problems within the neighborhood we lived in. After a year living happily in another city we returned to Bogotá to live were we had lived previously. I entered Juan Rey school – and was connected to the ACJ (YMCA Bogotá) where many opportunities were provided to me to use my skills and gifts to do good things and teach other young people a better way to live.

The [YMCA] for me has been the best thing that could have happened to me because it actually opened my eyes to other realities,  and helped me realize that everything that is dreamed can be fulfilled. The Y taught me the importance of responsibility, respect, honesty, love, support and effort everything can be achieved.
I currently a leader of a youth group that we formed in the [YMCA] called Mysua Mague – and we work to reclaim polluted areas in our local community and decontaminate the environment in these spots.  We are concerned that in a few years we won’t have clean water or air as they both will be toxic. Another part of this project we also worked was an initiative called “Make yourself the environment” in which we planted urban orchards in places of high pollution to help the local community. In June 2019, a call for environmental proposals came out from the government for initiatives like ours – we presented our project, we trained and we received 5 million pesos to recover an area close to our school and thereby advance our purpose as a youth organization.

When I finish school, I want to be a volunteer and also study dance. Through dance, I can help many people get out of their conflicts, just as I did, and change their vision for what life can be.  I dream of supporting the ACJ as much as I can and being a member for a long time, to show that we can all make a difference and build a better future, regardless of where we come from.