Overcoming the past in Colombia: The story of Don Luis

Image  via  Lys Arango

Image via Lys Arango

Don Luis lives in La Liberdad, a small village on the banks of the Amazon River in the south-west of Colombia. His village is in the department of Putamayo, a region that has been hugely affected by the violent clashes in Colombia. Putumayo was and remains plagued by drug trafficking, paramilitary violence, land disputes and gang violence. The area lacks basic infrastructure such as schools, hospitals and roads, and struggles to access urban areas.

Last year, Colombia celebrated the one-year anniversary of the signing of peace accords to end the armed conflict in Colombia. Before the historic peace accords signed in November, 2016, the country was in a state of constant unrest since the outbreak of the conflict the 1960s. Stretching over half a century, the Colombian conflict between the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) and the Government was the epicentre of violence in South America.

Don Luis, much like nearly every civilian in Putumayo, was not left untouched by the bloodshed in Colombia. His daughter and son-in-law were killed in front of their six small children by an armed group who burst into their family home. The family was forever changed by this traumatic incident. The two oldest children were taken into care. One year later, four of the six children now live and are looked after by Don Luis.

One year on, Don Luis has accessed the Action Against Hunger programme in Putamayo, where he was given hygiene kits for the children and could access clean water and sanitation facilities. The doctors and the nutritionists have also helped Don Luis ensure that his grandchildren receive the adequate nutrition they need to alleviate the threat of malnutrition and help them return to school.

Whilst the physical, immediate needs where being dealt with, the trauma of losing his own child and witnessing extreme violence, lead Don Luis to attend a psychosocial support group. He has since been able to reintegrate with and contribute to the development of his community in La Libertad.

In the face of hardship and deep personal trauma Don Luis found support within his community. In doing so, he is also determined to help build a community in which his grandchildren can grow up healthy, happy and strong. The world needs fathers and grandfathers like Don Luis.

Action Against Hunger’s team, based in Colombia since 1998, accesses these communities of the peasant reserve by boat crossing the Putumayo River daily to carry out projects in the communities on the other shore, which goes into the Colombian Amazon.