The arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic in Colombia did not stop the momentum of Venezuelan migrants and Colombian returnees from participating in ACDI/VOCA’s Emergency Response in Arauca (ERA) II program. More than 800 families reinvented themselves in these difficult times by putting lessons learned through innovative approaches developed by the ERA II team into practice.

ERA II developed 45 podcasts and used phone calls and WhatsApp messages to share the program’s pandemic-adapted approaches and help families break cycles of dependence, feel empowered and self-confident, and develop leadership skills. These podcasts and communications supported the program’s food security trainings, water supply and proper hand-washing practices, as well as gender-based violence (GBV) prevention and psycho-social care. To increase the spread of information, ERA II also used megaphones in the settlements to ensure all families had access to the content.

As a way of supporting ERA II’s initiative, local radio station Meridiano 70 converted the podcasts into soap operas, interviews, and stories free of charge. Meridiano 70 also shared this content on the station’s Facebook and Twitter pages. Based on metrics gathered from Meridiano 70’s Facebook, women between the ages of 25 and 44 are the main audience for podcasts. Each podcast reaches between 10,000 and 15,000 people and is viewed between 900 to 2,000 times. The Mayor of Arauca’s radio station also joined the initiative and allocated radio spots to transmit the podcasts.

The programming, which originally only targeted ERA II’s participants, ended up reaching people all over Arauca and even Venezuela. 

I was passing by on my motorcycle around the Pescadito sector, when I heard the audio about parenting guidelines. I found what was being said quite interesting, since I have children, nephews and nieces within the ages they were referring to. I began receiving podcasts on WhatsApp and started sharing them with groups in my children’s school, and with my family in Arauca and Venezuela. These audios have taught us a lot and encourage us to keep on going. For example, after listening to the podcast about poultry farming and how to plant a vegetable garden, my family in Venezuela began implementing lessons learned from the podcast and tell me that it has been very helpful.” 

-Luisa Maryelis Vega Guerra, an Arauca resident who had not previously participated in the program.

Venezuelan migrant families, Colombian returned families and other families in communities reached by ERA II truly enjoyed the program’s podcasts, as they allowed them to learn and reflect without running the risk of contracting COVID-19. These families now feel more empowered to take control over their lives and their surroundings, as well as to support each other. Moreover, they understand that resilience and collaborative work is the way towards a new beginning.