Volunteer in Colombia
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"I couldn't think of anyone more deserving of support or anywhere I rather live and volunteer." -Dan Malakoff, former volunteer read more from Dan
- General Information on San José de Apartadó
- FOR's statement of purpose
- Volunteer Responsibilities
- Volunteer Requirements
- Financial Arrangements
- Volunteer Testimonies: Blogs
- Project Mandate
San José de Apartadó, located in Colombia's northern region of Urabá, is one of many communities in Colombia that have taken an extraordinary and nonviolent stand against war, by refusing to support any armed actor involved in Colombia's decades-long conflict. The community has suffered terribly from political violence, mostly by paramilitary groups supported by the Colombian Army, and remains a principle obstacle to the paramilitary's expansion of its violent project in the Urabá and Chocó regions. In March 2001, the Peace Community, whose central settlement of San José was accompanied by volunteers of Peace Brigades International, requested that the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR) work to establish a long-term accompaniment presence in the nearby settlement of La Unión. La Unión is the agricultural center of the Peace Community, and has been victim to repeated paramilitary attacks.
The FOR initiated its presence in La Unión in February 2002, with two volunteers and added a team in Bogota in January 2005. The FOR Bogotá team helps generate political support for the team and community in San José; works to increase the visibility and security of other grassroots nonviolent initiatives, including FOR's partners Red Juvenil de Medellín and the Antioquia Peasant Association; supports the FOR's US campaign to end military aid; and organizes for FOR delegations visiting Colombia.
FOR is seeking eager, committed, and skilled volunteers prepared to continue the accompaniment of this living example of nonviolent resistance and support the many other community based grassroots peace initiatives in Colombia.
Training for current opening will be in country. The next training will be in Nyack, New York or in Bogota, Colombia, in the summer 2013. Applications and references must be submitted no later than January 20th for the current opening, and May 10th for the 2013 summer training.
"I'm very grateful to be able to work in the community. I feel the same about FOR. Thank you for letting me be part of this project, and for taking care of us. I believe I have walked away with greater communication and analytical skills, and also a deeper passion for Colombia." - Julia Nelson, recently returned volunteer
"What I'll miss of La Unión: The delicious organic food people share with us: beans, eggs, yucca (cassava), corn on the cob, avocados, plantains, and meat: locally-raised chicken, duck and beef, as well as my favorite, tatabra (wild boar hunted in the mountains). What I will miss the most: the people of the Peace Community..."
-Chris Courtheyn, former volunteerread more from Chris
FOR's Statement of Purpose
The Fellowship of Reconciliation is composed of women and men who recognize the essential unity of all creation and have joined together to explore the power of love and truth for resolving human conflict. While it has always been vigorous in its opposition to war, the Fellowship has insisted equally that this effort must be based on a commitment to the achieving of a just and peaceful world community, with full dignity and freedom for every human being.
In working out these objectives the FOR seeks the company of people of faith who will respond to conflict nonviolently, seeking reconciliation through compassionate action. The Fellowship encourages the integration of faith into the lives of individual members. At the same time it is a special role of the Fellowship to extend the boundaries of community and affirm its diversity of religious traditions as it seeks the resolution of conflict by the united efforts of people of many faiths.
In the development of its program the FOR depends upon persons who seek to apply these principles to every area of life. FOR members:
- Identify with those of every nation, race, gender, sexual orientation and religion who are the victims of injustice and exploitation, and seek to develop resources of active nonviolence to transform such circumstances;
- Refuse to participate in any war or to sanction military preparations;
- Work to abolish war and promote good will among races, nations and classes;
- Strive to build a social order that will utilize the resources of human ingenuity and wisdom for the benefit of all, an order in which no individual or group will be exploited or oppressed for the profit or pleasure of others;
- Advocate fair and compassionate methods of dealing with offenders against society;
- Serve as advocates for victims of crime and their families who suffer loss and emotional anguish, recognizing that restitution and reconciliation can help to heal both victims and offenders;
- Endeavor to show respect for personality and reverence for all creation;
- Seek to avoid bitterness and contention in dealing with controversy, and to maintain the spirit of self-giving love while engaged in the effort to achieve these purposes.
The purposes of the volunteer presence in Colombia are:
- Accompaniment of San José de Apartadó to assist in protecting the lives of the community, and by doing so, help to maintain open the space for human rights and for neutrality of the civilian population in the Colombian countryside.
- Learn and report about other ongoing efforts by the Colombian civil society to build peace, including other Peace Communities, national and regional Peace Networks or Organizations and other grassroots forms of resisting war.
To these ends, the volunteers seek, as far as possible within their resources to:
- Offer nonviolent support and protective accompaniment to members and leaders of the San José community (especially in the settlement of La Unión), and to the Colombian organizations that accompany them, as they are threatened with violence from various sides;
- Identify what is happening in the country through direct observation and by listening to a wide range of viewpoints and experiences, respecting the need expressed by involved parties for confidentiality;
- Learn about and visit Peace Communities, Networks, Organizations and grassroots sectors involved in finding non-violent solutions to the war in Colombia, reporting to the US public about these efforts within the needs for confidentiality;
- Provide the outside world with a non-partisan analysis and reports of the situation as viewed from within the country or communities;
- Provide accurate and timely information to the Fellowship of Reconciliation in cases of attack or threat against the accompanied community, to assist in directing international attention toward the need for human rights protection.
- A clear understanding of and commitment to nonviolence, and to the value of bearing witness through an accompaniment project.
- Proficiency in both Spanish and English.
- A strong commitment to teamwork, both in terms of working with one or more other FOR volunteers in the field, and in relation to the TFLAC staff and committees.
- We seek volunteers who will commit to serve for at least one year.
- Maturity. We do not accept applicants younger than 23 years of age. The maturity of all prospective volunteers, regardless of age, will be evaluated.
- Because of the political context of this work and its aims, U.S. citizens are preferred, but non-US citizens are accepted. (For reflections by a British citizen who served in this project, click here.)
- Resilience and the ability to work effectively under intense pressure and stress. It is recommended that volunteers cultivate habits of self-care to manage stress over extended periods of time.
- Sensitivity to and the ability to work with people of different cultures demonstrated through previous experience with people of another culture. Experience in the field is an asset, but is not required. Familiarity with rural communities is also helpful.
- Familiarity with consensus decision-making.
- A willingness to live simply.
- Ability to represent the project in a professional and appropriate manner, in a wide variety of settings.
- Ability to track and analyze information that is pertinent to the safety of volunteers, the need for external support, and/or the opportunities for enhancing the work.
- Ability to work with a computer, for word processing, e-mail, and basic maintenance of the computer itself.
- Reasonable proficiency with writing reports, summarizing information, and capturing stories through anecdotes or interviews, is highly recommended. Some familiarity with photography is recommended.
- The ability to keep basic accounts (bookkeeping) of expenses and transfers of funds.
- Other skills that may be useful but are not required include experience with first aid, translating and interpreting, cooking, and other skills of daily life.
- A good working knowledge of the current situation in Colombia is highly recommended.
Volunteers are expected to do outreach in the United States to share their experience (speaking, writing) after service in Colombia.
FOR covers living expenses (food, lodging, and travel when doing FOR work) in the field during the term of service (in addition to providing a small monthly stipend and some health insurance). Volunteers are strongly encouraged to raise money to assist with their personal expenses while serving on the team.
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Read the personal narratives of FOR volunteers on the Colombia team, on their blogs:
Moira Birss (served since 2008)
Mayra Moreno (served 2007-09)
Janice Gallagher (served 2006-07)
Amanda Jack (served 2006-2008)
FOR will provide extensive training, which may include the following: reading materials, FOR-led training sessions in the United States and Colombia, self-study plans, and where appropriate attendance at conferences, classes or trainings on specific topics. In addition to training, each volunteer first will go through an interview process. The interview and training process is a mutual-discernment process - to help the volunteer decide if serving in this project is a commitment he or she would like to make, and to help FOR determine if he or she is adequately prepared for the experience.
Training for the current opening will be done in country. The next training will be either in Nyack, NY or in Bogota, for service beginning as early as July 2013.
Fellowship of Reconciliation: Colombia Peace Presence
Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR) representatives in Colombia will act in the spirit of the Fellowship's statement of purpose, which joins people together "to explore the power of love and truth for resolving human conflict." FOR members identify with people "who are the victims of injustice and exploitation, and seek to develop resources of active nonviolence to transform such circumstances." They also "refuse to participate in any war or to sanction military preparations." These commitments have led the FOR to recognize and support the extraordinary commitment to nonviolence and justice of the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó, in the Urabá region of Colombia. FOR representatives at all times abide by the laws and Constitution of Colombia.
Our mission and mandate are expressions of interest and concern of people of conscience and faith in the United States for the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó in Colombia, and for a just and nonviolent resolution of conflict in Colombia generally.
Through the installation in Colombia of international (especially US) observers, the FOR seeks to:
- Support the Peace Community's right to life and protection of the human rights of its members and of nearby residents.
- Contribute to improvement of the situation of human rights and international humanitarian law in San José de Apartadó and the Urabá region, in order that civil society have the space to work for social justice and the peaceful solution of conflicts in the region.
- Inform the international community about the situation of the Peace Community, Medellín Youth Network, Antioquia Peasant Association, and their regions, thus contributing to a deeper understanding of the human dimensions of the conflict in Colombia and of efforts to peacefully resolve the conflict.
- Convey to Colombians through our presence the active concern of U.S. society for civilians affected by the conflict in Colombia.
The FOR Accompaniment Project seeks to obtain these objectives through the following activities:
- Accompaniment of Peace Community: FOR observers will physically accompany members of La Unión in San José de Apartadó, in the settlement and work areas, in order to strengthen their security. FOR observers may also accompany Peace Community members while they travel outside the community, and other settlements of San José on occasion. FOR observers carry out accompaniment on the basis of requests from the community.
- Activities to raise the visibility and increase the security of other partners, the Medellín Youth Network and Antioquia Peasant Association (ACA).
- Reporting to International Community: FOR observers in San José report, including via public communications, on their experiences and what they learn to the international community, especially the United States. As resources permit, FOR will also report on peace initiatives in Colombia besides the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó and other partners.
- Communication with Colombian U.S. and UN officials, FOR advisors, and human rights NGOs: FOR observers periodically communicate their presence and concerns to Colombian and U.S. authorities, to convey FOR's concerns related to the community and to learn from others' perspectives.
These activities are meant to be mutually reinforcing of each other.
For more information or to apply, please contact: