Director of Protection and Special Services for the Colombian National Police, Brigadier General William Salamanca, spoke at the University of Miami School of Communication’s Shoma Hall on April 2. His presentation “Prevention, Intervention, and Action: The Colombian National Police and the Security of Children” discussed Colombia’s efforts to stop and prevent abuse of its children.

Salamanca shared the national police’s success working to ensure the protection of children, including a service started in 2006 that designated 5,000 specialized police to children’s safety and prevention of abuse, including violence, sexual abuse and child labor.

He also discussed Colombia’s efforts to promote the appropriate use of free time after school. After issues with children engaging in online interaction with strangers arose, programs were created to provide recreational activities for children from 4 to 8 p.m. Other programs have been created for blocking content and alerting parents if their children are using risky websites or chats. The presentation was followed by a Q&A session.

The event was brought to UM to highlight a project to prevent commercial sexual exploitation of children in Colombia, including the work of UM Assistant Professor of Interactive Media Lien Tran, Jessica Wendorf, doctoral student in the School of Communication, and Maria Elena Villar, associate professor at FIU’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication, who together with the Colombian National Police developed a board game called Por Nuestras Calles as a method of teaching about these issues.

School of Communication Dean Gregory Shepherd said Salamanca’s presentation showed students what kind of impact they can make through communication.

“Anything that sort of opens up the world to our students is great,” Shepherd said. “The extent to which our students can see how expertise in communication can make a difference in the lives of other people in the world […] What our students learn can be applied to really make lives better, and that’s what’s happening here.”

Senior Lexi Williams, who attended the event at her professor’s encouragement, left with a broader sense of the Colombian National Police’s role in prevention mechanisms associated with child abuse in Colombia and the idea of stopping abuse before it affects more children.

“I wanted to learn more about it,” Williams said. “It’s interesting that they are looking more for prevention.”

Public Relations Experience Program (PREP) students helped with the event’s execution, from greeting and directing guests, to taking photos and assisting with a reception after the General’s presentation. Students wrote captions for the photos, asking attendees about their responses to the event.

Sophomore Kelly Neuenschwander enjoyed hearing Salamanca speak as well as hearing his answers to the questions brought up by attendants after. She said she liked being involved in many aspects of the event and playing a role in its success.

“It was interesting hearing people’s responses and working an event that wasn’t setting up but actually being in it,” said Neuenshwander.