Buenaventura, colombia

a life-changing experience

Carmen Moreno Millán

Resilience: “the ability to be happy, successful, etc. again after something difficult or bad has happened”. I thought I knew the meaning of this term before enrolling in this initiative. Obviously, I was wrong.

When I ended up selected to become an EU Aid Volunteer with Alianza por la Solidaridad in Colombia, I began digging into the major issues which affect the country, specifically the Pacific Region and the municipality of Buenaventura, since its problematic seemed invisible to the rest of the world and even to the Colombian society. I believed this would be a post-conflict situation, in which people were in process to reach a real peaceful life. Nevertheless, it wasn’t until I settled in, that I discovered violence is fully alive and they are still suffering various plights as a consequence of the unceasing armed conflict.

In this respect, I met the different projects Alianza por la Solidaridad is executing. Some of them are focused on rising resilience amongst the communities through empowerment, by increasing their capacities, not only to re-establish their former conditions but also to enhance them and expand their horizons. This gave me the opportunity to meet incredible people and go beyond my expectations. But what made me appreciate the real value of the word “resilience” was the story of one of my colleagues in the field.

Jeison is a singer, a nursing assistant and even a magician but, in this case, he was acting as a bakery teacher with beneficiary communities for one of our partner organisations in the frame of a project financed by the European Union. When he told me that he was born in the same area we were working in, remote and isolated, I got curious to know more about him.

In 2001, a massive forced displacement in this area, the Naya veredas, caused by a significant episode of violence, made people leave their homes and possessions and migrate to the city. Jeison was one of them. He had to leave everything behind, losing his family business, and start a new life in the city. However, instead of losing courage, he re-opened his business and worked hard for his family. Simultaneously, he decided to get qualified in different disciplines, so that he could gain access to better opportunities.

Thus, he met the EU project and decided to come back home and prove to his community that everything is possible, that they can effectively change their lives. To show them what resilience means, and to teach me what resilience really means.

Thank you Jeison!