Though limited employment opportunities impede reconciliation in rural Colombia, our USAID Colombia Program of Alliances for Reconciliation (PAR) is doing something about it: PAR empowers young people through training and access to income-generating opportunities.

In Puerto Rico and Mesetas, two municipalities in central Colombia affected by conflict, PAR partnered with the Corporación Construyendo Futuro (Corpfuturo) to equip 90 youth with video production skills. Beyond opening up an avenue for economic inclusion through filmmaking, the project offers young people safe alternatives to occupy their free time and has helped to improve coexistence among participants as they build communication skills and recognize the value of teamwork.

Youth Participants Form Film Collective

As an outcome of the project, 20 participants created a youth communications collective called CLAP Producciones. The collective produces short films that document collective memory-building initiatives and highlight the natural wealth of the department. The short films generate new narratives about the stigmatized region and boost local tourism.

In addition to the hands-on audiovisual training, the young participants also took part in DecidoSer workshops, which helped to improve respect through dialogue, encouraging participants to listen and put themselves in others’ shoes. This has also strengthened relationships between the different generations, with older members of the community, including teachers, commenting that the teenagers behave better and are more cooperative both in and outside the classrooms since becoming involved with the project.

Participants in the PAR audiovisual training practice their skills

Significantly, 100 percent of the participants said they recognized themselves as agents of change for reconciliation, committed to changing the negative perceptions associated with the region. Eighty percent said they felt security was improving.

Jhon Alexander Sanabria, a CLAP Producciones leader, is a soft-spoken 18-year-old. He says that he was very shy and wouldn’t talk to people before becoming involved with the project. He says he has gained confidence and made friends through the program, and has also found a calling with the new skills he acquired. For Jhon, one of his biggest takeaways was learning about social inclusion and respect for people with disabilities, which he reflected on after interviewing a visually impaired runner ahead of the Presta Tu Pierna road race in Vista Hermosa.

“I thought it was beautiful and really respect what [the visually impaired runner] does because he’s . . . showing an example of resilience and inspiring others.”

– Jhon Alexander Sanabria, PAR participant

Through the initiative, the collective also received video production equipment, including cameras, microphones, light filters, a video projector, sound system, and a computer, enabling them to run a successful operation. They are creating a name for themselves locally, providing professional services. The group has been called to do interviews and create videos for local fairs. They also provide communications services for other USAID programs in the area. They also recently collaborated with Discovery Channel, which produced videos to promote the natural beauty of rural Meta.

“We show what the municipality has to offer in order to create new narratives, because people think there’s nothing here. They think it’s just conflict and crime, but we have so much more to offer.”

– Jhon Alexander Sanabria, PAR Participant

Learn about our work in Colombia here

Learn more about our Program of Alliances for Reconciliation here