Americas / Colombia

June 20, 2017

World Refugee Day: Honoring resilience in the face of enormous difficulties

Jimmy has been displaced four times with his family for fear of violence from the bloody 50 year civil war in Colombia. He and his family benefit from our community-based health and nutrition programs, which serve a large internally displaced population. Jimmy has also become a community advocate and a voice for the environment as a result of our transformative trainings and workshops.

PRESS RELEASE: Imagine having to run away from bombs, beatings, or bloodshed. Imagine fleeing in fear from the place you call home. Imagine being torn from loved ones, family and friends. Unfortunately, this is reality for hundreds of thousands of people around the world every year. On World Refugee Day, Malteser International Americas, an affiliate of Malteser International, the global humanitarian organization and relief agency of the Order of Malta, honors all people who have been forcibly displaced and have fled their homeland, yet have shown strength, courage, and resilience in the face of enormous difficulties and despair.

“In the Americas and around the globe, we do not turn our back on the children and families who are suffering the consequences of civil war or are caught in the crossroads of bloody conflict, rather we help them, uphold their courage, support their achievements, and treat them with the dignity and respect they deserve,” said Ravi Tripptrap, Executive Director, Malteser International Americas.

Over 65 million people are caught in the refugee crisis. In March, Malteser International Americas co-hosted a side-panel at the United Nations during the 61st Session of the Commission on the Status of Women, which highlighted Malteser International’s Cash-for-Work program in the Middle East, which empowers women and offers them a life-saving opportunity to create stability and normalcy for themselves –and their families– within refugee camps. The program offers trainings and cash-for-work for unskilled females, while offering renewed stability, better livelihoods and stronger family structure.

But, the crisis is severe and people continue to suffer greatly because of persistent political turmoil, religious persecution, and war, and they are in dire need of our relief, support, and encouragement. Through a reliable network of partners all over the world, we reach those who are most vulnerable. And together, we honor their resilience and willpower of refugees and internally displaced persons in many countries worldwide through appropriate measures.

In the Americas: “Hopefully peace comes, hopefully. We do not want to live amidst this violence any more. Before we fled our home, we had to live with bombardments from the army as well as the Guerillas,” said Jimmy Chacon, 45, who was forced to take to the road with his family a total of four times for fear of violence – each time leaving almost everything behind. There are more internally displaced people in Colombia than in any other country in the world. Jimmy is one of over seven million who have been forced to live like refugees in their own country as a result of fifty years of bloody civil war. At the end of June 2016, the Colombian government and the leftist FARC guerilla organization, the two main parties to the conflict, agreed on a ceasefire. Only time will tell whether the peace will be a lasting one. In La Guajira, where Jimmy now lives, he and his family benefit from our community-based health and nutrition programs, which serve a large internally displaced population. Jimmy has also become a community advocate and a voice for the environment as a result of our transformative trainings and workshops.

An example from Turkey: Yasmine is only 9 years old, but has already lost so much: her father, her home, and the sight in one eye. Born in the Syrian city of Homs, she has lived through war and has been on the run for most of her life. She was seven years old when she survived a bombing, which killed her father. Along with her mother and two brothers, she fled to neighboring Turkey. She lives in Istanbul with her family under difficult conditions. Nevertheless, for almost one year, Yasmine has been prepared to start schooling. Malteser supports an educational center in Istanbul where Yasmine is learning Turkish so that one day she may be able to attend public school in Turkey. The educational center serves up to about 700 children, offering classes from kindergarten to twelfth grade. This way, these children, even as refugees, have the opportunity to attend school and learn an occupation.

Around the globe in South Sudan: Julia Angelo Ucin is 50 years old. She has lost her husband, one of her sons, and her home, as a result of the ongoing civil war in South Sudan. Her brother was abducted and she still does not know if he is alive. Along with more than 10,000 other internally displaced people, Julia has been living in a refugee camp in the city of Wau since July 2016. Like most other people from her village, she fled her home to seek refuge in the city because of the conflict. To make sure she has enough to eat and to feed her family, Malteser International trained Julia on ways to grow basic food vegetables such as okra, cabbage and pumpkin in the urban environment. She also earns money from selling some of the produce harvested. This has helped Julia provide for her children. In four refugee camps in Wau, Malteser International also provides refugees with clean drinking water and has constructed 18 boreholes so far. According to Julia Ucin: “Now we have enough to eat and our children are doing better.”

From Colombia to Turkey to South Sudan, and everywhere in between, as a global organization, we remain committed to helping refugees, migrants, and internally displaced persons everywhere to overcome unconscionable difficulties and hardship, while we acknowledge and support their achievements and help them to live lives with dignity.

Help refugees, migrants and displaced people find resilience in face of fear!

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