The first few days are a salad of emotions

Here we have the new group of PBI field volunteers. This year 20 new volunteers have joined the Colombia Project after getting through the training and selection process that is carried out in several different stages (application, interviews, online training workbooks). These stages conclude in a weeklong meeting in Spain attended by the hopeful volunteers and members of the PBI training team.  We give them a warm welcome and wish them good luck.

Christophe, Francia
Christophe Robin, France

All over Colombia people talk about injustice and oppression, and the powerful sectors in society that threaten, murder and silence…I have never liked that the powerful silence me: a tyrannical teacher, a boss that has power over me, a gang in the street… so when I heard that there was a way for me to be here, next to those who risk their lives, those who won’t be silenced by the powerful, I felt very fortunate and I joined up.

Lisa Stalde, Switzerland

Hello my name is Lisa and I grew up in Switzerland. I have come to Colombia because there are a lot of important social and political processes going on here at the moment. I think that the peace and respect for human rights in Colombia has an effect on me as an inhabitant of this planet. I form part of a global system of injustice and exploitation but I do believe that change is possible and that it starts with oneself. I am here to learn a lot and give my grain of sand for a world that is fairer and more peaceful.

Tito Mompó, Spain

Hello my name is Tito and I left my country to join the PBI Colombia Project because I am enthusiastic to learn about, and to get to know, new perspectives and people here in Colombia. In Valencia I worked in an organisation called Valencia-Acoge as well as for the campaign to close Foreign Internment Centres in Spain. To earn a little bit of money I also worked giving French lessons.  Sometimes people ask me what I will do in the future and I always reply that the future is now and it is the passionate experience that I believe that I am going to live.

Silvia Arjona Martín, Spain

I return without having gone.  I am returning after a brief interlude and a swift breath of fresh air of home, family and friends. Inside of me the uncertainties and fears flutter around, this is something that I have lived before; the first time I set foot on Colombian soil.  But now it is different; everything has changed, Colombia has also changed, and although these first days have been a salad of emotions that has been difficult to digest, my instinct, so wise, pushes me on with encouragement in the direction of this new project.

For me to concentrate my journey on international accompaniment with PBI Colombia has not been something thought over with much thoroughness. Instead it is another step in a journey of understanding the achievements of this process for the people and organisations that suffer human rights violations (some that don’t seem to have ceased with the recent signing of the peace agreement). For this reason I have confidence in the professional and human wager in this work and what PBI is becoming, because more than twenty years of accompaniment has served in dissuading some of the violence that otherwise devastates Colombia.

And so I returned without actually leaving, and I have come back with my suitcases packed with excitement, strength and anticipation to learn, discover, construct and share with the Colombian people, their personal experiences, their struggle and their persistence, this intensity that comes from the heart and has got me hooked.

Gerardo Arce, Peru

One time a wise man advised me to live every day, week and year as intensely as if it was going to be my last, (because it actually could be your last).  These words returned to my mind the last time someone asked me why I had decided to go to Colombia to work as a volunteer for 18 months in a field as complicated as protection and accompaniment of human rights defenders who are threatened because of the work they do.

To live every day with intensity and try to leave a positive footprint on the world and the people who surround us is without doubt what we have in common as volunteers from different countries who work in PBI.  In my case I am also motivated by the possibility to work in this beautiful country, in such a special context like the current one, after the signing of a peace agreement between the government and the FARC, and be able to accompany organisations and social movements that seek to construct a long-lasting peace based on the respect of human rights.

Nikolai, Rusia/Canada
Nikolay Afonin, Russia/Canada

My name is Nikolay, I am Russian-Canadian, and my education is in psychology and social work. The reasons for leaving the two countries I call home and dedicate this period of my life to the PBI project can be divided into three parts: personal, intellectual and humanitarian. The personal is the opportunity for self-development and self-transformation that comes with the effort involved in the task ahead. The intellectual is to be a witness to human rights abuses and violations.  The humanitarian is to use my privileges to help people who suffer violence and injustice in their work towards peace and human dignity.

Michael, Alemania
Michael Kettelhoit, Germany

Hello I am Michael from Germany I studied Political Science and Conflict Investigation. In the context of a semester abroad in Colombia I had the opportunity to get to know the cultural and natural diversity of the country.  I fell in love with it and wanted to return to get to know it better. The work with PBI seemed to me an interesting possibility to combine my personal interests with my professional interests.

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