July 2013 - Latin America
In Latin America RET works with refugees, IDPs and local host populations in Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Panama and Venezuela. World Refugee Day, celebrated on the 20th of June, was therefore an opportunity to highlight the importance of an issue, often underestimated in the region. Numerous events and activities were organised to allow refugees to express their concerns and local populations to better understand those seeking refuge. It was above all a day for tolerance.
In Darien, the department of Panama bordering Colombia, the RET team with teachers and 49 local and refugee youth got together for an “art day”. Paint-ing was used as a means for these young people to express themselves. This year’s theme: “If I was a refugee, what would I like…”. The participants ex-pressed some of the main preoccupations of refugees: not having a home, relying on the help of others, the need for official identification papers, food…
In Colon, where the Panama Canal meets the Caribbean Sea, RET celebrated World Refugee Day by conducting a training on how to use sewing machines for young refugee women heads of households. They are part of RET’s beneficiaries building their own micro-enterprises and had previously been provided with 14 sewing machines. They produce small traditionally crafted puppets, which are sold to the tourists visiting the country.
This is not only a sustainable project for these young women, it equally rep-resents an opportunity for integration. Through such projects, local populations can appreciate the importance of cultural diversity and better under-stand the productive roles refugees play in the their communities.
In Costa Rica migrants, refugees and local youth belonging to the group “Chic@s RET” celebrated World Refugee Day in their own way. They de-signed a flyer to raise awareness on the situation of those who had to flee their countries for ethnic, religious, social or political reasons. They spread out in the parks and central streets of Heredia and Alajuela to talk with the locals, explain the situation of refugees and of course distribute the flyers.
For the Venezuelan community of La Tinta (San Cristobal), World Refugee Day was celebrated with a whole day of fun and culture. RET’s team invited the local population, men and women, whatever their age, whatever their status to share the music, the dances, the emotions of all the countries represented. All participants had something in common: they share the same land. This was an opportunity to show that provided that they can access decent living conditions, refugees are capable to integrate local communities and build a new life.
At RET we are committed to helping vulnerable young people face the challenges of displacement through education. Such activities help us strengthen our resolve, but the greatest motivation comes from our beneficiaries. In Panama, Miryam told us “With RET I feel part of a family and my friends and I have managed to integrate well. Between us, there are no differences, we are all equals.”. This is maybe what World Refugee Days is all about: learning to live together.