Still trying to find the words

I, Katie, am still trying to find the words to describe  the experience of going up to the Granizal neighborhood last week for the inauguration of the “Corner of Memory and Reconciliation.” It has been awhile since I’ve visited the project, Community Transformation for Peace, that works with the community in Granizal out of the Covenant church that is located in one of the neighborhoods. As I walked into the church I had to hold back tears; to see it filled with people, art, leaders from the community, and participants from the project sharing their space and what they have created. It was beautiful. Simply beautiful.

A view of the soccer field which has been transformed over the years and the road leading up to the church.

A collage of artwork done by community leaders.

Granizal is the second largest settlement of displaced people in Colombia. With around  25,000 people living there, over 90% have directly experienced the consequences of violent conflict. The area lacks drinkable water, a hospital, a police station; yet what the people of the community has done to create hope and opportunity is inspiriting. The Community Transformation for Peace project, has worked with adolescent and teenage girls for years. They have created space for families and community leaders to come together to share experiences, to learn to advocate for their rights, and to dream together of how they can transform their community.

Amazing to see this young woman grow into a leader and hear her sharing about the project

Recently they have been offering spaces for women, men, youth, and children in the community to share their stories of displacement, of loss, and also of hope. The inauguration of the “Corner of Memory and Reconciliation” has been part of this process. As we walked in the room there were pictures displayed, along with stories of women who have experienced displacement. There were different household items, and pictures that people had brought in to tell their stories of what was like before and after being displaced.  Different women from the community led us through the different stations explaining what we were looking at. These women have survived so much and they are sharing their stories with the younger generations. It truly felt like a sacred moment.

Entering the “Corner of Memory and Reconciliation”

Hearing the stories of displacement from one of the guides, a woman from the community.

Food is a part of our identity. Through this display participants talked about the food they ate before being displaced and what they have come to eat now. This represents a shift in identity.

Outside of the room there was a wall filled with a collage of artwork that community leaders had come together to do, in representation of what they see in their neighborhoods and what changes they desire to see. In another area of the building was the “garden of reconciliation.” A group of people has been meeting for three months and as an exercise in telling their stories, in finding healing and hope to move forward, they created trees out of recyclable material. Each tree had a name and a description of what it represented. Again, beautiful. I had to hold back tears.

Trees made by participants representing reconciliation

The garden of reconciliation. “Speaking of memories implies reconciliation with the experiences of the past and with the relationships in the present. The reconciliation is one of those ingredients that permits our network of relationships to grow, flows, and be strengthened in the middle of exile and uprooting.”

This is the “peace tree.” It reminds me of the mango tree that I had in my garden in my place of origin.

Another beautiful tree

The reconciliation stew. Each participant contributed one healing ingredient.

The reality of what the families in this community have experienced and continue to experience is hard. It is challenging. But, they are seeking to be agents of transformation and reconciliation. This is something to be celebrated and recognized. I feel honored to have witnessed the creativity and collaboration of this group of people.

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