Because of the success of the HROC program in Africa, we, the Peacebuilding en Las Américas Working Group of Friends Peace Teams, decided to expand the program for possible use in Colombia. We had originally hoped to have two of our African colleagues join us in Colombia this past summer, but we encountered visa problems for them, which could not be resolved. Instead I facilitated two sample workshops with Val Liveoak, coordinator of our working group, from South Central Yearly Meeting and Alba Arrieta from Colombia. A translator, Antero Cortes, came with us as an interpreter for me.
This summer we held two sample HROC workshops on the northern coast and in Bogotá. In evaluating them, we decided to focus on the north coast in the near future as a pilot program training AVP facilitators to facilitate HROC. Many of the AVP facilitators in the northern coast are already well trained in group facilitation, making them ideal candidates for becoming HROC facilitators. There are also many displaced people on the northern coast. Almost everyone in Colombia has been affected by the war with loss of a loved one or displacement.
The trauma healing basic curriculum is designed to introduce participants to the concept of trauma, build a sense of trust and community within the workshop, and facilitate initial expression of grief and mourning. It also introduces stages of a healing process and concrete strategies for beginning the healing journey.
Moving through the four stages of Establishing Safety, Remembrance and Mourning, Reconnection with Community, and Finding Commonality, the workshop uses as its conceptual framework Judith Herman’s stages of recovery adding concrete knowledge and skill building for managing the aftereffects of trauma. The curriculum has a number of exercises from various sources and was written in collaboration with Rwandans and Burundians. Some of the workshop participants had had AVP and, therefore, were familiar with some basic concepts such as active listening, affirmations, communication, which added to the overall usefulness of the material.
The facilitators present various learning activities and then help debrief the activities so that participants can draw conclusions on their own from the experience. The curriculum presents a large number of activities and facilitators decide on the activities to be presented, based on the needs of the participants. The program emphasizes group process and group learning.
The format is intentionally nonhierarchical to promote group participation. In Africa, the facilitation team and often the participants are balanced by gender and ethnic group, as well as other factors, such as including displaced persons and ex-combatants. In Colombia, we will balance the team by gender and we hope each team has some displaced persons on it. In Colombia, there is not yet a peace agreement and therefore it may be difficult to include ex-combatants in large numbers, although at least one of the participants in one the sample workshops was in fact an ex-combatant.
In Colombia, we introduced the idea of peer support groups as a follow-up to the workshops and had time for practice of peer support groups within the workshops themselves.
The Colombian AVP facilitators are also in the process of contacting other community groups to see how to network with them in this goal of community trauma healing. The AVP facilitators in Colombia have worked with other groups such as church leaders and Catholic religious communities whose social ministry is with vulnerable populations, teachers and directors of high schools, community leaders who work with at-risk youth, non-governmental organizations which work with young people who have left the ranks of illegal armed groups (the paramilitaries and the guerrillas, for example), and professionals whose work is in the field of conflict resolution.