HIAS: After Fleeing Colombia – A Chance To Heal

It seemed like an ordinary day to Maria, until an armed group of men unexpectedly arrived at her home in western Colombia. Despite her protests they shot up her house—killing her son—and kidnapped her older daughter. “When I buried my boy it was one of the saddest and most distressing moments in my life. I never thought it would happen to me,” she recalls.

She fled with her youngest daughter and two grandchildren to find safety. She headed north, but the attackers pursued. Fearful and uncertain, she used the last of her money to pay for transportation across the Ecuadorian border.

As a result of armed conflict in Colombia, hundreds of thousands of people have endured intimidation, threats, torture and kidnappings by the government, guerrilla groups and paramilitaries. More than 400,000 have fled to other countries, seeking international protection.

In Ecuador, Maria was able to get refugee status and find a job. But like so many, Maria began experiencing the effects of severe trauma. Surviving such harrowing events often leaves refugees isolated and withdrawn, unable to overcome fear, trust others or actively participate in daily life.

For over a decade, Global Impact partner HIAS has been working in Ecuador to provide Colombian refugees fleeing the conflict with psycho-social assistance. They were able to get Maria a psychiatrist to work with her long-term. By facing her trauma, Maria was able to forge ahead, re-engaging in the world and rebuilding her life.

“HIAS gave me hope and restored my desire to live," Maria says. "Now I am a happier woman and see the world in an optimistic and enthusiastic way. Even my family has noticed. I am so grateful because my life once again has a sense of purpose.”

Photo credit: HIAS