Colombia: Gloria and Luis, entrepreneurs in the midst of violence
In October 2012 Gloria* and her family had to move to a different neighbourhood in Medellín, because of fighting between rival gangs. The future of her children was the main reason for the move. “I would rather sleep under a bridge with my children than let them get involved in a gang and hurt people or get themselves hurt,” remarked Gloria.
She earns a living as a cook in a restaurant during the day, but wants to improve her income by setting up a night-time arepa stand. She had already found the ideal place, but she needed money and a business plan.
Gloria is one of the beneficiaries of the income-generating programme of the “More humanitarian spaces, more alternatives” project, which the ICRC is carrying out in Medellín in partnership with the Colombian Red Cross. It involves the management of microcredits granted by the ICRC through an operator or arranged with other entities and training to develop entrepreneurship and business acumen. The beneficiaries are families affected by the violence who have a viable idea for a business. The aim is to help break the circle of violence and provide people with the tools they need to build a better future.
Another of the people involved in the programme is Luis, a locksmith, who was able to stop bothering his neighbours with the business he had set up at home. “I rented some premises,” he said. He used the ICRC loan to buy tools, but he believes that the biggest benefit was learning how to use money and set goals. “My dream is to build up my reputation throughout the metropolitan area by 2017 and be able to deliver when customers bring me a lot of work.”
It is not by chance that Luis has set himself goals for 2017. As explained by Mike Londoño, the project’s economic security officer, the differentiating feature of this programme is that it aims to change people’s way of thinking in the long term. “We try to build a solid basis for a life plan before giving any financial assistance. Before they even get a single peso from us, we can see the changes in their businesses.” In December 2012 81 families out of the 100 selected were carrying out income-generating activities under the programme.
Since 2011 the ICRC has been implementing the “More humanitarian spaces, more alternatives” project, in partnership with the Colombian Red Cross and local authorities, with a view to mitigating the consequences of armed violence in urban environments.
* Names changed