July began with an intense period of training in which six potential FOR Peace Presence accompaniers explored the roles and responsibilities of human rights accompaniment in Colombia. The participants from Hungary, France, the United States, and Wales participated in a range of learning environments, from role-plays that recreated demanding situations experienced by past FORPP accompaniers, to audiences with FORPP partner organizations, and to exercises in thinking critically about human rights, power and privilege, volunteerism, and non-violence.
The training left all participants with a new understanding of relating to the issues facing Colombia, and with a new appreciation of the pleasures and demands inherent in working for international solidarity. Two participants then proceeded to complete further training to begin immediately as FORPP accompaniers, while another will join in November, and a fourth is volunteering in communications with FORPP with a view to joining as an accompanier early next year.
Our two new team members continued the next phase of their training in Bogotá with the whole team together. About a week later, Sophie headed up to the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó with Adilah to be trained on our accompaniment there. On their first day back in the Community, the team accompanied a community teacher and some schoolchildren to a small sustainable farm, where they learned hands-on how different species of plants, such as sapodilla, passion fruit, turmeric, rice, coffee, and cacao can be grown in Urabá’s tropical climate.
Meanwhile, another accompanier dove right into Bogotá work: attending meetings, learning our protocols, and studying up on our partners. Before long, he headed out to Tamarindo with Julia for his first accompaniment. In Tamarindo, the team arrived in time to share some birthday cake with one of the community leaders. They also visited community members, talking about their views on the current situation, and listening to stories of their prior evictions. We wrote about the experience in this piece on our blog.
July also saw the publication of our first ever Annual Report. This was a labor of several months, and we are very proud of the final product. The report breaks down our budget for the year, so that our donors can see exactly how we are spending our money. Complete with photographs, graphics, and numbers, it also details all of our many exciting activities over the last year! (Did you know that with an operating budget of just $163,000 USD, FORPP provided 454 days of physical accompaniment in 2014?).
In Bogotá, Michaela and Candice had a follow-up meeting with the representatives from the US Embassy who visited Tamarindo in June to discuss developments and the Embassy’s action strategies. There was also a meeting focusing on Tamarindo with the Presidential Office of Human Rights, to talk about ongoing concerns about the respect of the communities’ right to a voluntary and dignified resettlement.
In numbers, FOR Peace Presence spent 17 days accompanying in July, in the departments of Antioquia and Atlántico. We had three official meetings, and five publications on our blog.
July was a great month—we’re excited about our new team members and we look forward to sharing about their continued work with FORPP and with our partners. Thanks for your support and be in touch!