Imagine a life where you are living with a constant fear of your own safety and that of your child's. Many times you and your fa¬mily have been forced to break up and escape from home, work, school, friends and relatives. Perhaps the family is divided and maybe you or someone in your family lost an arm or a leg due to stepping on a mine.
The civil war in Colombia has been going on for a long time. In many places whole villages have been abandon due to fighting. One such village is Mirandita, approximately 12 miles east of the city of Medellin in northern Colombia. For many years none dared to stay there. Since 2009, however, several families have begun to return.
It is a fairly Motley bunch of people who settled in the small village, scattered along the Andean mountain slopes. Most came back to run down houses and agriculture after many years of neglect. The area is now conflict free but there are still mines remaining in parts of the mountains. The ground is very hilly but the climate is suitable for agriculture. They grow coffee, maize, different kinds of beans, bananas and yucca.
The people have slowly begun to re-establish their lives again. Several families have deep mental wounds after years of living in fear and having fled for their lives on more than one occasion. Many also have physical injuries after the conflict; some are missing an arm some a leg. Other families are divided; Mom or Dad has died or live in Medellin or in another of Colombia's major cities.
Bridges for Peace
In Colombia we cooperate with CIREC which in many ways work with people affected by the prolonged conflict. A part of CIREC's work is called "Seeds of Hope". They work internally to develop and support villages such as Mirandita. Most of the families in Mirandita have had to start over from scratch after returning from being exiled and they have limited resources for developing effective farming. Coffee, which in the long term can generate money, grows slowly and it takes time before the profit can support a family.
The goal of the project is to have the village become self-sufficient. Most work is catered towards small farms but they also need to find alternative sources of income. The road to and from the village is in bad shape and needs to be improved. While the village is built up, the families are getting support in the form of food packages and also help to organize themselves in order to jointly raise standards in the village. At the heart of the work stands the village's school. It serves as a gathering place and motivates families to stay in the village. So far there is a pre-school up to grade five but we hope in the near future the school can offer grade six and above. The school is also a safe place where they can begin processing the trauma as most of them have experienced. They have also started a small vegetable garden next to the school. The children learn about agriculture and the school receives an important contribution to the school lunch.