Since 2019, IsraAID has been working in Colombia to support Venezuelan migrants and Colombian returnees with psychosocial support, integration-supporting education, livelihood training, and more. Below are a few updates from across our different activities.
In the city of Riohacha, our Protection team led a mental health and self-care workshop for other NGO staff members and female community leaders that work with vulnerable communities. These leaders are currently participating in a course aimed at understanding gender-specific issues within Colombia. The workshop that we ran offered tools to bolster emotional resilience for the staff members who are faced with new challenges every day. Including self-care tools in our programs provides essential skills that can be used by anyone, humanitarian workers and community members.
This month we launched a new cycle in all of our Child Friendly Spaces - Los Guacamayos, Ciudad Cangrejo, and Paraíso. During this cycle, each protective space will focus on addressing psycho-pedagogical issues to strengthen the skills of children and adolescents that have moved to the area in recent years and are dealing with integrating into a new school system. The staff will also work with family members and caregivers to promote active participation and support at home.
As part of our 'Resilient Youth' project, we further developed the soccer field outside our Barranquilla Child Friendly Space with an inclusive fence and supporters' benches with sun protection, strengthening this space as a hub for both sport and other community needs. To celebrate the upgrade, participants from our Livelihood program that now work in food or catering provided delicious treats for everyone involved.
We have been working to expand the reach of our Livelihood program by hosting information sessions in new communities. In Isla La Loma, we participated in a Services Fair where we spoke about our employability track and corresponding psychosocial support, later signing up 20 people for the program.
Thank you for supporting vulnerable communities in Colombia.
In a country of 17 million people where 75% are estimated to have anxiety disorders, there is only one psychologist for every 10,714 people. IsraAID Guatemala is working to address this issue through one of our tried and tested methods – training community workers.
“Together We are Resilient” is IsraAID’s in-person course aimed at increasing the capacity of integral protection and psychosocial community workers in Guatemala, generating a wide network of support in especially vulnerable communities. But this wasn’t the first place we launched the course. As IsraAID Colombia’s Education and Protection Coordinator, I brought the training from my team in Colombia to my regional partners in Guatemala. I had the honor of working with Maria Ortiz, who coordinates IsraAID’s protection programs.
Maria and I worked together to ensure the course was relevant to the local and national needs. We focused on making sure that the context of Guatemalan culture and humanitarian system was represented, including adding more Child Protection and resilience-building aspects. Thirty officials from the Education, Health, and Protection sectors participated in this two-week course, representing 15 governmental and private organizations that provide social services to the communities.
Collaboration was key to the success of this course: Collaboration between IsraAID’s different missions, between the different levels and sectors of officials involved, and between people will have different skill sets. Every participant in the ‘Together We are Resilient’ course shared case studies, stories, and skills, establishing cross-cutting support networks for people working with vulnerable communities. Simply put, everyone’s unique experience maximized the success of the training and eventual impact on the community.
Edna Bin Sis, coordinator of a shelter for survivors of sexual violence and trafficking told us that "This course is of vital importance for those of us who work with survivors, and especially strengthens my ability to support my team as a coordinator. The tools that we received, especially those of self-care and resilience, will be useful to my whole team, helping us to continue providing quality care to survivors in the shelter."
"The course offered the opportunity for professionals from across the spectrum to focus on child protection, benefitting from the dialogue between people with a range of experiences working to support children at risk,” Maria said.
Our Protection teams in Colombia and Guatemala are stronger than ever, as individuals, as teams, and as a region. We’ve been learning from each other from the very first discussions about this collaboration. As I told my colleagues, the learning experience with the Guatemala team has been transformative on a personal and professional level. The culture, the beliefs, and the entire ecosystem of this cross-sectoral project are very enriching. I brought them back with me to our programs in Colombia. I am very happy and grateful for this opportunity, to be able to contribute my knowledge, and to be welcomed by the Guatemala team. I am certain that we will continue working together to advance the sector across the region.
In both Colombia and Guatemala, and in the future hopefully more countries across the Latin American and Caribbean region, this cross-regional approach strengthens all of us.
Thank you for supporting us as we strengthen communities in need across the region.
Colombia currently hosts 1.8 million Venezuelan migrants who have fled economic and political unrest in the country. After crossing the border into Columbia, many of these migrants are left vulnerable and have trouble accessing public health, education, protection, and livelihood services and opportunities.
In the past few months, we have been busy with a number of projects. Here is a brief summary of just a few of them:
Water for Indigenous Communities
Until recently, the Wayuu indigenous community in Manuare, La Guajira walked 3-4 kilometers to access water. Without regular access to safe drinking water, the community often relied on contaminated water or purchased expensive water delivered by boats from Cartagena.
WATCH NOW our video to learn more about this project and the Wayuu community.
Juntos Somos Resilientes
We held certification ceremonies in Barranquilla & Cartagena for participants of the online MHPSS course, "Juntos Somos Resilientes." The training targeted three different groups: teachers from the public education system who work with migrants, frontline workers from partner NGOs, and civil servants from the public Child Protection unit. This program provided capacity building and MHPSS training for both professionals and those newer to the field. The training was aimed at expanding their toolkits and professional capacities to respond to specific challenges the community faces, in particular in light of COVID-19.
Seed capital was delivered to 14 entrepreneurs in our livelihoods program. After completing business skills training and presenting their business plans, the entrepreneurs received the necessary machines and supplies to start or improve their businesses, which include bakeries, cabinet makers, sportswear manufacturing, and an ice cream parlor. We were honored to be joined by the Mayor's Office of Barranquilla and Secretaría de Desarrollo Económico de Barranquilla
There have been a lot of exciting Livelihoods activities over the past few months. Below are short summaries of just a few of them.
The first cycle of Psychosocial Workshops began on the beach, where 67 participants joined this new initiative to be trained by the IsraAID team, strengthening their individual selves as business owners and valued employees.
With the implementation of these workshops, young people will improve their skills in finance, leadership, communication, and management of emotions, helping them in future recruitment processes, job placements, and management of their business units.
The participants of our livelihoods training course continued to strengthen their work and interview skills. This year, this component has an additional digital literacy module that, in addition to improving skills useful in job interviews and technical tests, will provide training and skills to allow participants to be able to face the digital world that has grown in relevance as a result of COVID-19.
Protection Permit Training for Migrants
IsraAID Colombia participated in the massive delivery of Temporary Protection Permits, organized by Migration Colombia and ACNUR. In total, 54 people, of whom 51 were migrants, learned about the benefits of participating in our program, specifically as Venezuelan migrants on the employability track.
Rafael is a young Colombian, part of the host community in La Playa. After completing our Livelihoods program, including psychosocial and labor workshops, he became the first graduate of our program to be hired in 2022 as a Cleaning Operator. Rafael wishes to motivate his colleagues with the following message: “As long as we are with God, everything is possible. We continue forward, even if the road is hard. If I could, you can too”.
IsraAID first arrived in Colombia in 2019 to support over a million displaced Venezuelans and has remained since, provide livelihoods, protection, medical, and educational opportunities for Venezuelans and host communities.
As inflation and unrest mounted in neighboring Venezuela, entire communities were forced to leave their homes. Many walked across the border to Colombia, where only 40% held legal status. This posed a major barrier to accessing even basic social services and kept legal employment out of reach. IsraAID is one organization among many working to fill these gaps and ensure that communities are able to build a better future for themselves.
The country has an unemployment rate in the double digits, which increased dramatically during the pandemic. IsraAID's livelihoods program in Colombia is a six-week course providing individuals from Venezuelan migrant and Colombia host communities with training in leadership, communication, decision making, labor rights, marketing, and more.
The program offers two tracks: one to help people find employment, and the other to train new or existing business owners.
Mildred is a young Venezuelan migrant with eight years of experience in the preparation of fast foods and frozen food products. After market research, she decided to start a company that produces and distributes these types of products.
Mildred's business, "Filipenses 4:13" is one of the first businesses to come from IsraAID Colombia's Livelihoods Program, specifically from the "Business Strengthening' track. With the support of seed capital, she invested in a freezer, digital scale, steel work table, kitchen utensils and raw baking materials to make her products. She sells her products in local stores and to her neighbors.
From this business, her family now have two income streams. During follow-up visits, it is clear how motivated Mildred is. She still has many goals to meet, including finishing the construction of the family house: “and now with this opportunity I know I can achieve it”, says Mildred.
“I am very grateful for the program because it has allowed me to fulfill my dreams”.
Jefferson is a young Venezuelan migrant, who came to Colombia for better job opportunities. He wanted to open his own motorcycle repair shop but he did not have the necessary equipment and tools to do so. He was one of the first participants of IsraAID Colombia's Livelihood Program, receiving seed capital to buy the necessary equipment for his venture.
Not only did he open a new business, but he also took another big risk by moving his home to be nearer customers. The risks paid off, and he is now a successful entrepreneur, having expanded beyond repairs, and he provides employment opportunities for other young Venezuelan migrants.
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