500 Volunteers Join Colombia Program of Alliances for Reconciliation (PAR) in Rural Peace-building Project
Cañon de las Hermosas is a small, rural town tucked in the Andes, rich with wildlife and located several hours from any paved roads. Until recently, it was also a longtime stronghold of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).
Colombia’s armed conflict has left the country divided across many lines—politically, economically, and not least, geographically. As its rural populations suffer disproportionally from clashes among armed groups, the divide between rural and urban areas grows.
Vamos Colombia, a campaign supported by ACDI/VOCA’s USAID-funded Program of Alliances for Reconciliation (PAR) initiative, aims to narrow that divide by supporting projects that cultivate understanding and respect between polarized groups. To do so, Vamos Colombia urges the private sector to take the first step toward reconciliation.
Previously, association with the FARC kept public and private development projects out of Cañon de las Hermosas. Now, 500 Vamos Colombia volunteers, all public and private sector employees, have visited the southern Tolima town to participate in five days of low-tech, high-impact community development projects based on local needs.
Volunteers—like Eduardo Mora Galindo, a corporate manager for the IT company Grupo ASD—traded in their laptops and business attire for shovels and boots.
“Here in the city, I have not had to experience the misery, suffering, and pain that many Colombian families have had to go through. I want to learn about their circumstances, their reality.”
– Eduardo Mora Galindo, a volunteer with Vamos Colombia
Eduardo left his busy office in Bogotá and traveled eight hours by bus to the Andean region of southern Tolima, an area he may have never visited otherwise.
For participants like Eduardo, these peace-building projects not only teach about life outside major cities, but also illustrate what the often-abstract idea of reconciliation looks like for areas marginalized by armed conflict.
Vamos Colombia has led similar volunteer projects in Magdalena, Bolívar, Antioquia, Chocó, Valle del Cauca, Tolima, Caqueta, Meta, and Bogotá, with several more planned for 2017. These projects take place in alliance with Foundation of the National Business Association of Colombia (Fundación ANDI).
“For those of us living in Bogotá, it’s hard for us to imagine what others had to go through. This experience has helped me to understand; we all come from different backgrounds, and when we connect these different life experiences, we are reconciling as a country.”
– Jaime Garcia, a volunteer with Vamos Colombia
*Photo credit: Fundación ANDI