Carlos’ Story, Colombia
Carlos has devoted his entire post-university life to helping small communities surpass the challenges and hardships that result from the armed conflict in Colombia. Right after graduating Carlos spent one year in the jungle in the region of Araracuara, in the Amazon department, learning about the indigenous communities´ experiences with forced displacement and westernization.
Today, Carlos works in Unión Peneya, a small community in the department of Caquetá, which in 2004 suffered the displacement of 3,000 persons due to fighting between the FARC guerrilla and the Colombian army. In January 2007, some 1,000 persons returned to the community to rebuild their lives. Carlos has been an integral part of this town for a little over a year now.
Carlos, who was himself a victim of forced displacement in his youth, enjoys working with and assisting the community, especially the children. He finds the feeling of the communities´ gratitude extremely satisfying. He says “If I don´t know something, I will find it out to try to solve someone’s problems”, which can be very challenging in a place with poor internet and cell phone coverage. He notes that living with the community long-term offers great advantages: while earning everyone’s trust, he has been able to really mobilize and encourage people to make positive changes in their lives and rise above the hardship.
Some of the challenges that Carlos faces include encouraging the youth to become more active in politics and take greater responsibility for their future. He also misses his family a lot, and the lack of internet makes keeping up his studies quite problematic. Still, he enjoys being in Union Peneya and “giving the children hope, so that tomorrow they will not become the children of the war.”