Trust Q&A

How the work of the organisation benefits the community ?

The Sam Ling Gibson Trust awards grants to support Casa Taller in Colombia.

  • Casa Taller provides a direct benefit to all the individuals participating as well as to the wider community in an area where there are many aspirations and few opportunities to use skills to gain work of any kind or to access education.
  • Casa Taller provides physical community centre open to all and offering a safe space. This is a place establish friendships and link with others to plan community activities and improvements. It is a place to cook and eat together, learn new skills and make use of old ones to celebrate community. There is no other facility elsewhere in this neighborhood where the community can build connections and develop collective activities.
  • New initiatives and small enterprises are developed at Casa Taller such as artisanal soap-making. Casa Taller provides opportunities to learn skills and put them into through collective effort and experience – from enterprise skills to gardening skills – these opportunities are not otherwise available in this community.
  • The fact that there is a physical house means that people from outside the area wishing to support this venture from, for example, universities or other community organisations can come and spend time to create links within the community.
  • Central to the public benefit of Casa Taller is how the building and the project housed within it support the large number of children and young people who attend every afternoon. They participate in learning activities and games, are able to share in preparing and eating nourishing food and drink, have support with homework and participate in democratic, collective planning and decision making processes, building their capacity to participate in their communities and their individual and collective leadership skills.
  • These experiences have transformed the lives of the young volunteers who have grown up over the last 14 years of the project’s existence, and are the greatest examples of its benefit. They now help run all the activities and workshops. This in turn helps support the adults in their families who are often struggling to make ends meet and having to work away from home.

The founder of Casa Taller Nicolasa Diaz says:

This new process (the establishment of the Sam Ling Gibson Trust) is the biggest opportunity that we have had for the young people of Casa Taller. This is the chance for them to be properly empowered as they are the ones who are going to be in charge of doing these meetings, they are the ones who are going to be asking for the money, putting in the forms, putting in the reports. We want them to be in charge, we want them to be the protagonists. We have been talking a lot about how we can think about this process of transition within Casa Taller and also supporting them so that they will be learning and putting things into practice. During these 14 years countless children and young people have passed through the project, some continue today and have become the leaders and teachers of the project.

We currently have 50 people actively linked to the project, ranging from children of 5 years old to young people, mothers and grandmothers.

There is a core group of 20 children whose ages range between 5 and 12 years. There are different activities are carried out with them including cognitive and pedagogical activities aimed at school reinforcement, and artistic processes, all based on the development of values through workshops and games. These activities include e.g. tutoring, weaving, craft and bakery workshops, agriculture and food sovereignty workshops, gardening and farm workshops, ice cream making and more.

There is a core group of another 20 young people aged between 13 and 20. Most of them have been involved with the project for more than 6 years, and have become part of the dynamic team of the house – the teachers of the new generations. We accommodate the diverse interests of this group, such as preparing them to enter college or working life, discussions on gender and sexuality. and various leisure activities such as videos, concerts, walks and other activities. Skills-based activities include weaving, crafts, bakery, music , gardening and farm skills, agriculture and food sovereignty.

Some of the mothers also come to the house for their own benefit. In those cases we work with them to provide a space where they feel supported and can give themselves the opportunity to learn, supporting as much as is possible with childcare on days when they work. We also provide accompaniment for difficult incidents such as  domestic violence, separation or unemployment. It is also important to highlight that the majority attend because they find in Casa Taller a space to be heard, valued and integrated into the different activities where they are made to feel important and necessary.

During the whole history of Casa Taller, grandmothers have played an important role, because just as mothers they need to feel valued, and their contribution has been vital to the process. The weaving workshops are led by them, creating a process of intergenerational learning through the oral tradition, allowing the transmission of traditional/ancestral knowledge and the sharing of experiences of 70+ years of life, nourishing our project – these are different ways to learn, and through the process the women end up becoming the abuelas of all children, the counsellors of young people and the caretakers of the adults, fetching coffee, checking if we already had lunch, looking after everyone, in short, the guardian angels of the process. It should be noted that they are the ones leading the Food and Agriculture Sovereignty Workshop, since they are the ones that carry knowledge about growing plants the garden and through their traditional recipes, teach us the true value of food, after all, grandmother is grandmother. We currently have 10 grandmothers involved in Casa Taller.

 How the work of the organisation develops the community

Nicolasa says:

Casa Taller has gained recognition at community level, due to our concern for the neighborhood and participation in the community spaces for discussion and decision making. For us it is very important to sow in the members of Casa Taller the need to be engaged in their territory and what is going on around them, and the awareness of themselves being social actors that can propose and transform, hence they have a role to play in the construction of our communitys destiny, this is how we carry out various actions that allow us to go beyond the dynamics of the house to advance community processes where the social fabric of the neighborhood is strengthened. Currently we lead environmental processes, we work with the community television channel and we do some workshops in the communitys state school, likewise we belong to spaces at the city-level of Bogotá such as the network of farmers and the rural coordination platform of Bogotá, we maintain coordination relationships with other neighbourhoods and youth processes, in addition to participating in meetings, fairs and forums.

What needs in the community have the organisation identified and how the work of the organisation address those needs

All grants from Sam Ling Gibson Trust to Casa Taller are given within the four stated priorities set out in the Grant Making Policy. These four areas of need were identified by the community members, and they are currently in the process of developing a 4-year strategic plan for addressing these needs. Here is more detail about those priorities explaining what needs they are addressing, and why they deliver public benefit and community capacity building:

Healthy food

Casa Taller is situated high above Bogota and is much colder. There is no cultivated land as it is on steep hills and is surrounded by cloud forest. The neighborhood has small shops which have the usual fare of impoverished communities -sugary snacks and fizzy drinks in abundance but little access to fresh fruit and vegetables which are cheap and abundant down in the city . There is little money available at Casa Taller for healthy snacks so one of the agreed areas of support they have requested from the Trust is funding to help change the situation and provide more plant based snacks -fruits bananas …. and to developing the gardening and cooking projects. There ideas emerging for small food enterprises at Casa Taller – a bakery, a fruit and veg cooperative etc. It is a great way of involving the grandmothers in teaching cooking skills to younger members. The garden at Casa Taller connects the children to growing food and a home-made pizza oven made by provides a means of baking large amounts of bread as well as pizzas. There is a basic kitchen which provides a place to make a fire and cook soups and heat water. The garden although small is a way of showing what can grow in their community and having a few animals -chickens and rabbits – allows children to take responsibilities and also to use the eggs.

Building and site development

Casa Taller is a remarkable building developed by Mateo xxx, helped by Sam Ling Gibson; both of them skilled builders. Sam set up a wood workshop room to make the things needed for the house and at the same time teach carpentry to the children . Most of these tools were donated and that workshop was testament to how with sheer hard work, some skills and perseverance you can gather recycle and build table, shelves and in fact a whole house. Although it suffers when storms are exceptional, it is an impressive building which they have dreams of developing over the next four years. Specifically, the building needs to be strengthened withstand the weather conditions, they would like to develop a second floor as an arts workshop, the would like to build guest accommodation and also some improvements to e.g. rain collection and other eco-improvements. There is a part which has to do with want we want to do now and we are doing it slowly. Many photos of the building showing its development and are available to view on the Sam Ling Gibson Trust website in Casa Taller section.

Succession planning

It is important for the project that the younger volunteers are supported over the next few years to become more and more involved with the planning, decision making and leadership. The future of this project – as in any other community – will depend on involvement of the next generation. There are many young active volunteers who have grown up within project and run many activities and workshops. Sam Ling Gibson Trust will support the skills and capacity building of those young people so that they are both developing both the skills of the younger children and their own skills.

Nicolasa says:

I want to say something really important that we (Mateo and Nicolasa) had for the dream we have had, to leave this community with a wonderful and dignified space for the community. When we dreamt about building this and sustaining it we gave everything- all our time ,all of our time, our love, our money, knowing that this was something we wanted to leave for the members of Casa Taller, for the young people there with the economic means of supporting these kids, the future of this project is something really important. They are the ones who have been supporting Casa Taller for a long time. They want to do that. .It is important that young people develop their own skills within Casa Taller. For example, Sandra is artistic. We have Lorena who can develop pedagogical paths – she is here with the kids and she could provide stability for her family if she received a stipend. She could also open every day and be permanently in the space, be that constant presenceLorena has started to do training for the last couple of Saturdays so she is the person who sustains the relationship with the university students who come up and do their practice. Ive been working with her so she is more confident pedagogically and she can now teach people from outside what we do and what is our true pedagogy at Casa Taller We dream of being able to send her on training courses. There is also the food sovereignty work Carol does with the kids around the bakery and teaching the kids how to cook – we want them to be able to develop that. We have identified what each of them want to do – like Piña who was making soaps – it is a way they can drive their own potential and train themselves up so they are also developing their own sustainability as well. I’m very clear about this as sustainability training for the young people, and it can give them an economic stability.

Travelling School (ESCUELA VIAJERA)

This is where the Casa Taller volunteers lead one trip each year to different areas of Colombia, meeting the diverse communities and peoples that exist in the country, studying their organisational forms, and their autonomous governance structures (as in the case of indigenous communities or Afro-Colombian who have their own laws). These trips allow the Casa Taller visitors to understand, that the world is wide and diverse, that we can learn from everyone, that there are diversities and many other ways of life. However, these trips are never just for pleasure, since there is extensive prior coordination work with the social movements in the territories to which the group travels, so that the members of Casa Taller can to contribute to as well as learn from the communities they visit. Sam Ling Gibson Ling wrote about the travelling school when he used the collection from his grandmother’s funeral to help pay for their travelling school in 2013:

A trip with the kids- Colombia 2013

I´m writing this to say thank you for the money that was donated at my Gran´s (Kath Ling) funeral earlier this year. There is nothing that Gran would have wanted more than that something positive come out of a tragedy like her passing away, and the donations that were made, instead of flowers, were put to a great cause.

My name is Sam, and you might know that I live in Colombia, South America. Here I work as a teacher at a university and also at a foundation called Casa Taller, in a slum on the outskirts of Bogota. We aim to provide the marginalized kid´s with a space away from the conflict, where they can feel safe, learn new skills and above all be instilled with genuine values of harmony, community and trust.

For a long time we have been in contact with other marginalized groups around Colombia, and the indigenous peoples, as is often the case come under this category. One Group, situated a few hours away from Bogota has been inviting us to come and stay for years, and finally, with the money that was donated, we could make that happen.

Its very hard to summarise the greatness of the trip into a few sentences, but I´ll try! We took a bus to the indigenous village with some 30 kids from the foundation, from ages 3 to 20, as well as some mothers and grandmothers. After an arduous journey with more than few incidences of vomiting on the bus we arrived to the village and were greeted by the village elders, chief and shaman. Following a greeting ceremony with speeches form the chief and Shaman, we settled in to our mud huts. No electricity, phone, TV. Great! The first night the village chief and shaman sat round the fire with all of us and opened up a space for the sharing of worries. After each of the kids shared, various members of the village offered advice and solutions. This, as the shaman explained is how problems are solved in the village, communally and democratically.

Over the course of the week the villagers were eager to share their way of life, which included teaching the kids how to weave baskets, build mud huts, collect wild food, cook for an entire village, bath in rivers and maybe most importantly, to sit around the fire and share and resolve the problems that we all have in our lives.

Other than providing funding, what other support or services does the organisation provide to Casa Taller?

We are building a network and a database of supporters in the UK. We are also supporting networking within Colombia itself – e.g. a developing partnership with a hip hop project in Cali. Sam Ling Gibson’s wider network of skilled friends and colleagues in Colombia and the UK would like to visit when circumstances allow, and in these COVID times continue ring and keep in touch online. The Trust has established a network of support for Casa taller which would not exist otherwise – 30 of Sam’s friends worked tirelessly at running, walking and cycling to raise funds for Casa Taller this summer.

Who provides the training and how are the trustees satisfied that they are suitably qualified to do so?

The new training plans have been developed by Nicolasa Diaz, who has a long track record of human rights work, with the active young volunteers who’ve grown up through the project. The training will be provided through the long-standing connections that Casa Taller have developed with universities and NGOs in Bogota and further afield in Colombia and abroad. We are in close touch with Nicolasa and the volunteers and we will help and advise them if and as requested in developing the training programme.

What framework is in place to manage and ensure the two organisations remain independent?

We have entirely separate governance – we are different legal entities with different models of operation. Our Board of Trustees is responsible for ensuring that the Sam Ling Gibson Trust maintains its independence.

Are any of the trustees connected to any of the volunteers/staff at Casa Taller? If so, please explain the nature of the relationship?

When my son Sam died in a tragic accident in July 2019 it was important to try and respond to the huge gaping hole left there. Having been involved with community projects all my working life and working within charitable organisations, the idea of setting up a trust to continue supporting the place where Sam had spent his available free time over many years, volunteering alongside Nicolasa, Mateo and community members, felt powerful and important. Finding a way to support the inspiring project I heard about from him all the time and understanding the importance of Casa Taller for that community. This was a place they all saw as a force for good in the socially and economically disadvantaged area in which it is located. I invited four close friends who knew Sam well, and also have a range of professional skills and experience in the community development, education, finance, law and charity contexts to help me to establish this Trust in his memory.

His words were always better than mine so I will quote him here as a way to explain as best as I can why this trust is important. To gain recognition from the Charity Commission gives us a way of supporting their future developments offering opportunities for community capacity building -and the building of new networks with the chance for the Trust to support opportunities for education and training through four agreed areas .This has been done through actual community meetings on site with community members while staying at the project (when that community created a way of honouring and celebrating Sam’s life with myself and Sam’s brother Joe) as well as continuing to hold regular online translated meetings so we all clearly understand what is being discussed.

Quote from Sam Ling Gibson :

My name is Sam Ling Gibson, Im from England. Ive been in Colombia for between seven or eight years, which means Ive been at Casa Taller for seven or eight years. I came here because me and my family have always had a social conscience and been involved in social work, I am teacher but it has always been an important part of my life, to have a social conscience and be involved in social action, I think its a responsibility of everyone to do that, theres no excuse not to

So when I arrived to Bogota I was working and am still working with ex combatants who came from the FARC guerrilla, women, youth, and I started to work with them and do research with these populations, and then I started to teach, I am an educator, I am also working on a project with the Ministry of Education to improve the educational programme for the ex-combatants from the armed conflict.

Many of these processes work with children, with cases which are varied and challenging . The cases here are really important, its an area forgotten by the state, here we are next to Bogota and you can see the city but I dont consider this to be part of Bogota, because physically you feel outside of the city, there are animals, countryside, we are very lucky because we are next to the paramo, which is where the name comes from- the Las Moyas paramo. So what did the government do here do here? They built a road, brought electricity for some houses, and that is basically it. So what we do here in Casa Taller is so important, and thats why I am here, we are offering a safe space, thats the most important thing. Ive volunteered with a few different organisations Bogota which work with kids, but the others were institutions, were linked to the state, they were very cold in their approach to the work, and I didnt feel like they were good spaces to get involved with. Until I arrived here. An English friend of mine who lives in Cali knows Nicolasa, so he told me to come to Casa Taller, he said go, you will find something very beautiful. So I came, and I knew from the first day that this is where I was going to stay, I was completely happy to give me time here.

So what do we do? We have all different types of workshops and learning, we are sitting here now in the music room where the kids learn different instruments; we also are taking advantage of this moment because weve got home made pizzas in the oven for 30 people, that was todays activity, all day we were making the dough with the kids. Here we do all of the different forms of art, I teach carpentry here, we have ceramics, weve got the vegetable garden where we grow things and then use them to cook with, we make our own bread hereand a thousand more things that the kids learn. Everyday there is something. There is an energy, a great energy here. And now we are in a phase where, because Casa Taller has existed for about 15 years now, and the older kids who are now 18 and above, we are at a moment where they are more involved in running Casa Taller, before it was only Nicolasa, and that was important for starting and building Casa Taller, but now it is important to empower and give responsibility to the generation that have now grown up and are now adults, and they want that and are already doing it, and its been so great to see that transition in the years since I have been here.

Aside from all of these workshops that we do, the most important education that Casa Taller gives is the social education the kids get, because this is a very poor neighbourhood, so lots of the kids come from households with lots of problems , there are parents who are alcoholics and drug addicts, many single parents, a lot of families who often dont have enough money or food to eat in the house, it is very common that their parents beat them, so they come here initially with issues that affect them and are often resentful, and it is very beautiful to work with them and see the difference it makes, to see the changesit might take two days, to weeks, two months or two years, but it always happens. In eight years I think there have been only two kids who were too difficult, and who we couldnt work with because of how complex their problems were , but I feel proud becauseI feel bad about those two, but it is two out of maybe 400 kids who have passed through Casa Taller while I have been here, and all of them ended up more confident, safer, and less resentful, with more life skills, to be able to be sociable, to have friends, to be able to talk about their problems, to avoid fighting and resolve their problems, and to be able to understand what is happening in their lives and what to do about it, when before many of them wouldnt speak about things. Some of them are still in this process, which is the process of life, but its really beautiful, these changes are happening every day in Casa Taller, away from the state, away from Bogota, its our thing and its for everybody, and I think we are improving the lives of the children here, its a good example of a community organisation, I think that every neighbourhood needs a Casa Taller. Its a shame there is only one……

Have any of the Trustees visited Casa Taller in Colombia ?

Two of the Trustees, the Chair and Treasurer, have visited Casa Taller and spent talking with Nicolasa and volunteers through translator. Two of the trustees’ adult children including Dr. Holly Schofield (currently working with UNHCR in Geneva) and Patrick Kane (who has been living for many years in Colombia and is currently working on doctoral studies around issues to do with community development in Colombia) have also visited. There are strong bonds of friendship and respect between the trustees and volunteers.

What is Our Grant-making Policy ?


1. Purpose

1.1 The purpose of this policy is to set out the principles, criteria and processes that govern how the Sam Ling Gibson Trust makes grants.

2. Introduction

2.1 The Sam Ling Gibson Trust (SLGT) was established to benefit Casa Taller Las Moyas (Casa Taller), a community group based and operating in San Luis, Bogota Colombia. It was founded after the death of Sam Ling Gibson to carry on his work with Casa Taller (see Appendix 1 for further information on Casa Taller).

2.2 The Sam Ling Gibson Trust is governed by a voluntary trustee board.

2.3 The trustees ensure proper governance of the Trust’s grant-making by using the below grant-making principles to ensure that funds are awarded in accordance with the Trust’s objectives.

3. Grant-making principles

 The Board of Trustees has ultimate collective responsibility for all grant-making decisions in line with the Trust’s charitable purposes

 Trustees reserve the right to apply conditions to any grant and determine the use of funds in line with collaboratively agreed priorities and boundaries.

4. Grant-making criteria

4.1 Trustees will only awards funds to Casa Taller.

4.2 Trustees will award funds in response to application to support one or more of the following four priorities:

– Succession Planning: community capacity building and training opportunities with, and for, young volunteers, including both individual and collective skills development

– Building work and site development: developing and maintaining the physical structure of the Centre and surrounding spaces

– Travelling School project : enabling community members from San Luis to visit and work with other communities in Colombia for learning and inspiration, skills sharing, exchanging ideas, building community capacity and networks.

– Healthy Food: developing cooking and gardening skills; providing healthy, affordable food in particular for children and young people

5. Grant-making and reporting processes

5.1 All grant requests go through the following process

 Application from Casa Taller using template

 Consideration of application by full Trustees meeting and decision made if no further clarification required

  • If clarification of any points is required then such is sought by the Chair from Casa Taller colleagues and a further Trustees meeting held to make final decision
  • Following approval of grant, Casa Taller colleagues are required to submit quarterly monitoring reports until funds are spent. These will be scrutinised by Trustees and ongoing conversations held with Casa Taller colleagues in respect of any further clarification of progress and to recognise/articulate emerging impacts.

6. Variations to this policy

6.1 The Board of trustees may vary the terms of this policy from time to time.

Approved by Sam Ling Gibson Trust Trustees August 2020.

Appendix 1: information about Casa Taller Las Moyas

Casa Taller Las Moyas is an alternative, informal community education programme whose origins date back to 2003, when a group of neighbours (with training and experience in community organisation and human rights) in the San Luis area of Bogota recognised the great need to create a space to work with a group of children from socially vulnerable situations, initially in the home of one of the neighbours. The purpose of this was to work with the children to develop sustainable skills that would improve their life chances. In 2005, having seen the demanding nature of the initiative and the clear need for alternative training programmes for children and teenagers, they rented a semi-ruined house and started reconstruction and conditioning work  to prepare the space for the realisation of workshops (initially for artistic, artisanal, agro-ecology and environmental activities) with children and young people from the San Luis and La Esperanza neighbourhoods. Along the way, more neighbours and friends of all kinds became involved (anthropologists, social communicators, housewives, potters, etc.) feeding a knowledge-dialogue that has strengthened this training and educational initiative. The workshops and the time shared together in the Casa Taller provide a framework for work around the development of individual and collective human potential, under overarching principles of solidarity, fraternity, autonomy, freedom, and social responsibility.

The project programme is geographically located in the San Luis neighbourhood, located within a forestry reserve in the north-eastern hills of Bogotá, which has meant (due to conflicts between different state entities) that the community’s legal status has not been recognised. This “non-legality” has implied, on the one hand, situations such as community self-management (community aqueduct, construction of schools and parks) and, on the other, the lack of guarantees in their fundamental human rights. Within the programme, different actions are carried out (training workshops, trips, through the programme “Traveling School, participation in artistic and cultural events, productive projects, etc.) with young people. Youth in this area have been identified as a sector of the population in a particularly worrying situation, because of the systematic violation of their rights and high vulnerability. To mention some of the risk factors, there is a high rate of consumption of psychoactive substances in this area that leave many young people in situations of destitution and crime, there is a high rate of teenage pregnancy and a very low rate of young people entering higher education and becoming part of the labour market.

In 2020 the project completed 14 years dreaming, knowing and sharing different visions of the world, during which time they have been refining the methodologies, philosophies and political positions that guide the process. They have forged a proposal of non-formal education that has ended up becoming a large family, which joins in a space to be, with all the particularities which that implies, based on three fundamental principles: solidarity, autonomy and freedom.

Since its inception Casa Taller has opted for a wide variety of alternative ways of doing things and getting things done. They have built a house that today has a living room, dining room, library, music room, laundry, kitchen, bakery, a workshop space for sewing, carpentry and plastic arts, an orchard, greenhouse and if that were not enough, room to receive guests, all this mostly recycled or made by themselves, including the building, books, instruments, materials etc.