Personal stories of self-improvement and resilience in Buenaventura

IMG_0060The work of Alianza por la Solidaridad (ApS) in rural and urban areas in Buenaventura is focusing on improving the lives of families through community empowerment. To achieve this goal, the NGO works hand in hand with men and women from communities to improve access to decent housing, community infrastructure, basic services and programs to ensure food production and livelihoods.

In addition, the action plan of ApS necessarily implies institutional strengthening, government institutions have to ensure the respect of human rights and sustainable development. The best way to understand the work of the organization is by getting to know the testimony of leaders, members of the communities and workers.

>> «Here, despite all, we live well»

From 2000, the Colombian armed conflict has raged in the Valle del Cauca region (departamento) and internally displaced persons have massively arrived in the city of Buenaventura, which, as a consequence, has grown wildly and without proper sanitation. ApS has launched a plan with communities to build and improve houses in some neighborhoods. The work has been collaborative: families contribute with the regional material as well as with their work and the NGO with the technical advice. «Here, despite all, we live well, we don’t want to leave,» says Pedro, one of the leaders. The role of the leaders is to help the community in this process of building up the new neighborhood, to work for the welfare of the families, to make advocacy with public institutions, etc.

>> «We want to live in dignity»

Women from several rivers in the rural area of Buenaventura have traditionally worked in the extraction of pianguas mollusks, although they receive little money for selling them. However, recently this seafood has decreased significantly because the human activity and some women have decided to undertake other economic activities in order to protect pianguas. Nubia, along with a group of women, initiated a stationery shop. Starting this activity was not easy but gradually it is being consolidated, and surely desire and motivation are not lacking. They aim to make the business stronger, «we want to diversify our economic activity in order to have resources within the group of women,» Nubia explains, «because we want to live in dignity.»

>> “The collaboration of everyone is very important»

Laura is one of ApS workers, she is responsible for conducting workshops with communities from different ‘veredas’ of Buenaventura’s rivers in order to build and socialize Contingency Plans (Planes de Contingencia), actions that the communities need to take when facing a risky situation due to natural disaster or armed conflict. «People are not moving because they don´t know whether they will be in a better situation in other places» said one of the leaders. Many people prefer to stay in the ‘veredas” despite of existing threats. Therefore they need to be organized. «The plans are built with the active participation of women and men from the communities and are based on their knowledge of the region,» explains Lorena, «the communities organize themselves in committees in order to be more effective, the collaboration of everyone is very important.»

Written  by Laura Sancho Torné
Image of a vereda of Buenaventura