First few months with PBI

It’s been a whirlwind start and there don’t seem to be any signs of the pace of life in PBI Colombia slowing down any time soon. Whisked off the plane to our first two weeks of training in Bogota my emotions were mixed. Rising nerves, maybe my Spanish isn’t good enough, am I really going to be able to meet with army leaders and accompany human rights defenders in the field?

Tentative excitement, after a year long application process I’m exactly where I want to be, at the centre of action in Colombia, meeting inspiring people every day and seeing the country the tourists don’t see. I knew what I was getting myself in for but so far my expectations have been blown out of the water and my experience in Colombia is more than I ever imagined it would be.

PBI has a hugely privileged position the country, bridging gaps between civil society and grass root organisations, the diplomatic community and United Nations, the State and armed forces and the international community at large.

One minute I’m making phone calls to high ranking army officials explaining our work and asking for their evaluation of the security in certain regions, the next I’m in meeting with the United Nations discussing information fom various regions that not even the press have got hold of yet.

One day I’ll be in the office writing reactive discourses incase authorities accuse us of interfering with the organisations we work with, the next I’ll be trekking through the tropical heat of antioquia accompanying a truth commission.

I’ve been to court hearings where army officials have been found guilty of murdering innocent civilians and dressing them as members of the guerrilla. I’ve accompanied a displaced community back to the land they were displaced from in an event of collective memory and a symbol of resistance. I’ve met families of victims of extra judicial killings and accompanied humble acts of memory as they laid plaques and made sure the memory of their loved ones lives on.

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I can’t explain how excited I am to be working for such an fantastic organisation and how truly privileged I feel to be able to stand in solidarity with human rights defenders who stop at nothing to defend the ideals they believe in. They are hugely brave, dignified and inspiring and it is an absolute honour to work with them to fight for social justice and peace in a country I’ve come to feel so passionately about.

The work PBI does in Colombia is fundamental for the building of a country torn apart by war for so many decades. PBI holds States to their word, making sure they comply with what they’ve agreed to, protect respect and fulfil the rights of their citizens.

I’m hugely impressed with the depth of knowledge PBI has of the regions they work in in Colombia and the analysis which they are constantly undertaking to ensure the work they do has an impact. The organisation adapts to the political climate of the county and the needs of the people it works alongside.

I am now part of the team in Barrancabermeja where I live with 7 other people of 7 nationalities. Living and working in such tight and intense conditions can be challenging but having waded through such a long application process, those of us selected seem to have a similar outlook and so far work and live well together.

I’ve learnt a huge amount from my hugely capable and impressive colleagues and I’m looking forward to our new generation of PBI recruits taking the organisation to its next stage in this turbulent but exciting and promising time for Colombia.

-Hannah

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