Wednesday, June 20, 2007

World Refugee Day

June 20 is the United Nations Day to bring attention to the plight of refugees around the world. We wanted to share with you the reality of one uprooted family that we met in Colombia.
* Names and Places have been changed to guarantee the safety of the individuals.

She Kept Saying
“It’s very, very, hard here.”
Rural parts of Colombia can be violent, lawless places where armed guerrillas exact their will on a helpless, voiceless and often impoverished population. In the San Andreas region local thugs demand all residents pay a protection tax. If the fee is not honored beatings follow as punishment. For these marauding gangs, death is the inevitable compensation for failure to pay their fabricated debts.

Theresa feared for her safety and that of her four children, which she raises on her own. At 33 she had already seen and experienced many lifetimes of horror. Short on cash, but with a wealth of fear she left San Andreas and took her family into the night. With nothing but their beating hearts, the family left their ancestral home. Knowing no one, and having nothing they found a barrio (neighborhood) outside of Cartagena to call home.

Strangers have proven crucial in the rebuilding of their life. Starting from nothing, they have been able to cobble together a claustrophobic shack with a dirt floor and plank walls. Their neighbors have given them clothes and food. Two of her children have found sponsors and now have access to medical care and educational aid. Opportunities lack in this community, but she been able to find a little work washing clothes for people.

Life is a struggle for Theresa*. Even with the assistance she has received her children still go to bed hungry sometimes. She kept saying over and over in a sad refrain, “It’s very, very hard here.”

Her eyes have been drained of all joy…Theresa is a refugee. She has begun the arduous task of building life anew. She is safe now and because of her bravery her children will be able to live outside of the shadow of fear.

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