We start the year with the arrival of six new people who will become members of our three different field teams. They have come from Italy, France, Spain and Canada to volunteer with PBI Colombia. Below, they introduce themselves:
Lucrezia Aresi, Italy
Hello! I’m Lucrezia and I come from Italy.
I began my journey with PBI in 2016 as a member of the PBI Italy national group. Since then, I have been reflecting on and working according to the organisation’s principle of non-violence and non-hierarchy, which places importance on relationships and processes, not just results.
I see non-violence as a tool that can be used not only to overcome conflict, but also to transform humanity. When I feel discouraged because of everything that is happening in the world, I always feel motivated by thinking: “If a person can be non-violent, why can’t the world be non-violent?”
I think that being a “brigadista” is a huge responsibility, it means committing yourself fully to working alongside people who risk their lives to defend human rights, which for me is one of the highest examples of justice and human dignity.
After a year in the PBI selection and training process, I can’t wait to start a new chapter of my life in Barrancabermeja!
Maite Aguirrezabal, Spain
My name is Maite Aguirrezabal and I’m really looking forward to playing an active part in this project. For some time now, I have been following human rights processes in Colombia and I’m really happy to be able to accompany some of them as a “brigadista” with PBI.
At the same time, I’m aware that this personal “opportunity” is not good news for human rights defenders in Colombia, who continue to need international accompaniment to dissuade violence against them. In fact, in recent years, there has been an increase in violence, stigmatisation and unfounded criminal proceedings against these people who are striving for dignity, so that neither the land nor people are sacrificed for the interests of the few.
On the other hand, I am passionate about collective processes, and being part of PBI will enable me to immerse myself in the community projects we accompany and in PBI’s non-hierarchical, mutual support work.
I hope to be able to maintain the energy I feel now and use it in my work with PBI as best as I can!
Javier Ignacio Hoyos, Argentina-Canada
I have arrived in Bogotá full of enthusiasm, after a long selection and training process in which I had the privilege of meeting a group of extraordinary people. I applied to PBI Colombia because I value its principles, I believe in its mission and I admire its work over the last decades. Colombia is currently going through a critical moment in its history after the signing of the Peace Agreement, a moment of hope mixed with uncertainty. To build lasting peace, society needs to have space to act. Space in which individuals, organisations and communities can defend social and transitional justice without fear of being threatened and silenced for their work. I sincerely believe that by accompanying these people and communities in their day to day work and protecting their spaces for action, I will in a small way be part of the collective construction of a more peaceful, fair and inclusive society.
Arianna Francescato, Italy
In a period of time like the one we live in now, where mental and physical walls are being built, where it seems like the main trend is to separate ourselves rather than unite together, where human rights seem to belong only to the privileged few, I felt a real need to participate in some way in processes that try to build common, inclusive and human goals. My mind took me back to 2016 when, while researching the Colombian conflict for my Master’s thesis, I discovered some really inspiring social movements and processes that have risen over the years in this beautiful yet equally violent country, and I also discovered PBI and its accompaniment work. I sent in my application (and after a long selection process) I am now here in Colombia with PBI, doing what I can to support those who risk everything to create change.
At times I think that these defenders are superheroes, but it is important to remind myself that (unfortunately) they don’t have super powers. All they have is their amazing determination and will, which is what we all need and must use to transform this world into a more inclusive and respectful place.
Coline Sovran, France
This process began on a snowy day in Paris and has brought me to the tropical lands of Urabá. Between these two horizons that have framed my life recently, there have been as many new faces as promises of friendship, so many acronyms to learn, reports to read, socio-political dynamics to understand, protocols to learn, and many tales, of life and experiences… and when I go to bed at night, I still cannot imagine what life in the field will be like.
Because this experience in PBI is an incredible opportunity to learn, alongside people struggling for their rights, for their land, and for a life free from violence, and also alongside the accompaniers, the international “brigadistas” who come from many different horizons.
PBI is a commitment to human beings. During this year and a half, I want to fill myself up with this energy and take it back to my land, this commitment to protect the rights of all people.
Diego Lantero, Spain
“I came to Colombia for the first time in 2017 with a question: who are they? The year before, 125 human rights defenders had been killed in the country, and I thought I wanted to do some academic research about it. In reality, what I wanted to know was what kind of extraordinary person risks their own life for their ideals. And so I went to villages, I visited people in their homes and schools, I spoke with small-scale farming leaders who had been threatened, and with lawyers and activists who had armed guards and bullet-proof vests. And what I found were ordinary people. And that is precisely what was so extraordinary. These were scandalously normal people. And yet, they were exposing themselves every day to the greatest risks to defend their rights.
And here I am now, in Colombia once again, with a new question. What can I do? PBI and its work offer a provisional answer: using international accompaniment to create safer political space. Safe spaces in which these people I got to know last year, radically normal people – small-scale farmers, lawyers, activists–, do not have to risk their lives every day for a small piece of justice.”
Welcome to them!