Five new volunteers have joined the Peace Brigades International Colombia Project and will become members of the field teams in Urabá, Barrancabermeja and Bogotá. They come from Germany, France, Switzerland and Spain. What motivates someone to join a volunteer project like PBI Colombia? Below we meet the new volunteers and they tell us why. We welcome them all to the project.
Christina Gerdts, Germany
For me, human rights defenders and communities who defend life and their land are examples of dignity not only for Colombia but for the whole of humanity. Having the opportunity to accompany these inspiring people and communities and to offer my support so that they can continue to work in such an adverse context fills me with great pleasure and hope. Also, building trust and respect between people from the global north and south through my work in PBI seems to me to be an exciting prospect for social transformation towards a more inclusive and fair world where people live in solidarity with one another.
Carlos Ruiz, Spain
Why PBI? Why Colombia? It isn’t easy for me to respond to these questions because there is so much I could talk about, including my previous experience in Argentina and my interest in the psycho-socio-political (apologies for that word!)… One thing I can say is that learning from those who dedicate their lives to the common good and their amazing collective processes is the biggest challenge I have faced. I should also mention that PBI’s commitment to horizontality and consensus is important to me in this adventure. The way in which we do things is as important as what we do.
Sophie Helle, Switzerland
I am curious about our world and concerned about its violence, and I am constantly looking for new ways to participate and contribute to a peaceful world. As Colombia is going through a key period in its history, I want to participate in work to protect Colombian civil society leaders. It is important to value them and recognise their importance in the process of reconstructing the social fabric. I identify with PBI’s principles of non-violence, non-interference and horizontality, and I am honoured to be able to meet such courageous people, learn from their knowledge and experience, and accompany them in their daily struggle for the respect of human rights. I believe that individual action can lead to collective change and, therefore, I hope to participate in keeping open windows of opportunity for the construction of lasting peace.
Maelys Orellana, France
This year a new chapter has opened in my life, here in Colombia with PBI. I am full of enthusiasm and determination to participate in the construction of peace and the defence of social justice. For years I have been working on these issues from France, and I wanted to dedicate myself professionally to this work in the Latin American context, where there is considerable social and political violence but where resilience and intense and just struggles are alive. I know a lot about the work of PBI, its principles and its mandate, because I was a volunteer with the French national group for several years, and after experiencing the welcome and affection I received when travelling in Colombia last year, I have now embarked on this adventure that is enabling me to express solidarity and respect for Colombian leaders, and to put all my energy into protecting them so they can continue to develop their work in favour of human rights.
Adrian Carillo, Spain
It would be really difficult to give one definite reason for why I came to PBI Colombia, not because of a lack of reasons; just the opposite in fact. In the two weeks that I have been here, both in the country and in the project, I constantly have a sense of complexity and perplexity which makes it difficult to reflect on what brought me here. In 2016, a good friend and former brigadista told me about PBI and I was fascinated by how her eyes lit up while she told me the details of the work: consensus, horizontality, the accompaniments, the human relationships with defenders…. Since then I have wanted to be part of the collective efforts and ideals that make PBI a project that never ceases to amaze me. It has also offered me an opportunity to return to Latin America after six years, and to look again with fresh eyes, as if I had never been here. I am not one of those people who goes in search of places; I prefer the places to find me. Also, in the case of Colombia, I think that the only way to experience the country is to let its spaces and its stories to be unveiled little by little. So, for the many reasons that there may be, the truth is that I cannot remember at present any that stands out more clearly than the others. However, the sensations that little by little are revealing themselves during this experience of getting closer to the “peace” and conflicts that inhabit this country are self-explanatory. In short, I can only be grateful for the welcome from both the PBI team as a whole and the people I am meeting, and I will try to return a little of that affection by putting all my energy into this process.