June 13th, 2019

The project is underway in Colombia. But I find myself here, in Chicago, closing what has been my home for the last two years in South Chicago: a small and beautiful apartment I shared with my girlfriend (another Colombian student –brilliant Colombian student– at UChicago). Everyone who has stomached moving from one house to another can imagine what it takes to move from one country to another: my living room is full of plastic bags, bubble wrapping, boxes, old magazines and pillows. The books (OMG… the pounds of books) are in overweight, overpacked bags that I fear won’t fit in any airplane in the world.

The first stages of the project (planning, recruiting, etc.) are ongoing in Colombia. I’ve never worked with kids nor with mothers so I looked for a team, an A-Team to help me with the planning of our project. I now say “our project”, because from being a two-page document that I presented to the Davis people, it became a project not only mine, but one that also belongs to the team of the IHouse at Chicago and also, and quite happily, to my partners and my team in Colombia. They are all also speaking of “our project”. And they’re right in doing so.

In order to use the resources in the best possible way and given the fact that the humanitarian emergency has not diminished (the dictatorship in Venezuela keeps taking repressive measures and creating the socioeconomical conditions that have forced more than one million Venezuelans to take refuge in Colombia), early in the project I decided that in order to work with vulnerable kids and women I had to look for the help and support of expert social workers and engaged project managers in Colombia. The project now includes three different NGO’s, the Human Rights division of the city of Bogotá, a Family law and gender studies professor from the Universidad de los Andes, a Harvard graduate expert in Public Health, two managers who have experience in media, summer camps for vulnerable kids, and resource management, an ad-hoc group of lawyers from one of Colombia’s foremost law firms;  we are also working to engage Semana, the most important magazine in Colombia.

The scale of the project has grown to include not only intensive work with Colombian and Venezuelan children in conflict resolution, but also prospective social work with more than two hundred Venezuelan women. The work to do is vast, but we are all exited. If I succeed in packing, cleaning and leaving this apartment, I’ll be in Colombia soon. I’ll keep you informed of everything that is happening to our project.

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