What will I be doing in Colombia? In the months preceding orientation I have answered this question quite often and I am not always sure how people interpret or understand my explanations. One of the issues is that sometimes the context of events and conditions in Colombia can be very confusing and I am not always explaining this very well either. For those who are interested, I would recommend visiting the websites below to help give more context.
General descriptions of what is happening in Colombia should not be hard to find on wikipedia or other internet sites. This information can give one a start in beginning to understand Colombia.
So, what will I do in Colombia? I will be working with Anabaptist churches in their efforts to provide psychosocial support to people and communities that have been affected by the armed conflict in Colombia. My position with MCC is titled, Accompaniment Worker with Victims of Socio-Political Violence.
What will that look like? I can't give a lot of specifics about what this will look like because it is a new position for MCC and will develop as the needs become more apparent. I will be part of a committee that has church representatives who are also thinking about what it means to provide psychosocial support to people and communities. In the context of these church communities I think of psychosocial support as including the development or strengthening of community and social networks for people that have few resources and fostering an environment in which supportive and personal relationships can be formed. Within these networks and communities people can more easily support each other socially, psychologically, economically and spiritually.
As I begin my work with MCC I hope to have more specific examples of what I will be doing. For now, I can give an example of an interview project I have already done with MCC in Colombia. I completed this interview project as an intern in partial completing of my master's degree in Conflict Transformation. The interview project involved talking with church leaders in Bogotá and with people who had been displaced from their homelands and were now living in Bogotá. In talking with these groups I was able to gain a better understanding of some of the dynamics around providing psychosocial services.
And example of one of my learnings is that some church leaders are nervous about the amount of support they can provide for people that have been through such tragic events in their lives such as loosing their homes, family members and a livelihood. Without a trained expert such as a psychologist there seemed to be an insecurity about what a church could provide other than the spiritual guidance that they are accustomed to providing. When I asked the people who had been displaced what were the most meaningful and helpful types of support they received from their church they talked about people listening to them and being present and attentive to what they were saying. This didn't necessarily mean that they needed a problem to be solved immediately but rather that there were people and a community available for them to share their lives with. The congregation of people in building relationships together is what seems to be most important... not that there is an expert psychologist around to handle difficult situations.
I hope this post helps to provide some more understanding of what my position with MCC will be like. Inevitably there are many ambiguities but in time I hope to provide a more complete picture. Please feel free to ask any questions you might have.
The pictures in this post are of a section of Bogotá where many people who have been displaced have to come to live. Often they begin building a home out of recycled materials on the side of the hill in hopes that they can someday build a house out of brick.
Thank you for reading.