Liz Arevalo Naranjo, director of Corporación Vínculos, talks to PBI about the psychosocial impact of the armed conflict and how she accompanies victims to help rebuild the fabric of society.
PBI: What are the most transcendental consequences of the armed conflict on communities and on social and human rights organisations, in psychosocial terms?
Liz Arevalo Naranjo: Those who perpetuate fear clearly know that generating terror though enforced disappearance, murder, massacres or threats designed to generate displacement, are strategies to paralyse people and prevent them from taking action. In that sense, the most serious consequence is that in many cases, they are able to take away people’s autonomy in deciding how they earn a living, how they understand their relationships, how they think of themselves, how they wish to be or how they experience life as a community or a family and to choose what they want.
PBI: What methods have you developed though that accompaniment and how has that contributed to psychosocial recovery?
Liz: We have learned that technique comes second to being certain that when we listen, we understand the actual and individual experience of each person and each family.
PBI: To what extent do you think that victims can heal themselves through art?
Liz: Art is an exceptional way for people to find their own way of dealing with the situation they have lived through. Sometimes a painting, a mural, a ceramic piece, an expression or a work of theatre says more than what can be discovered through reflection. Nonetheless, we believe that all these artistic exercises must be accompanied by processes of reflexion. Identifying how this has helped you to recover emotionally, what feels different to you after performing the play, how you feel now, what you unburdened yourself from… If there is no reflection, the play won’t have such an empowering effect because the play is over and I didn’t think about how it affected me or how it helped me to recover. That’s how we see that it must be articulated alongside a reflective process.
PBI: How important is accompanying the victims of the armed conflict to bring about integral reparation?
Liz: With the amount of hate, pain, unresolved grief and despair in the country, but also how resilient people have been in surviving, it is absolutely necessary for there to be scenarios where we can transform ourselves together, and for the psychosocial approach to not just be limited to clinical attention for families or communities who were victims. There has to be a psychosocial approach with the whole of society.