Colombia: Faces of refugee entrepreneurs
13 June 2019
Cúcuta – Decades of internal armed conflict in Colombia have displaced thousands of people. Many of these forcibly displaced people move to cities searching for limited opportunities, but the potential for exploitation is high, and supporting oneself, let alone a family, is no easy task.
Adriana Caro lives in Cúcuta, Colombia and is one of many women in the country facing the challenges of forced displacement. Adriana fled the capital city of Bogotá after her partner was murdered by a criminal gang. She travelled Colombia, struggling to survive. Now she is the breadwinner of her family. The Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) helps support her small food business as part of the sustainable livelihood programme. “Peace,” she says, “…begins with a smile.”
Yarilene was forcibly displaced from Harcari. She arrived in Cúcuta 10 years ago, and, with the help of JRS, has finished a training course in business planning, marketing, sales, and customer service. These skills will help her move forward with her personal project of producing and selling ice cream.
Cristo arrived in Cúcuta in 2015 when the Colombian internal armed conflict forced him to leave his hometown just outside of El Carmen. He says life was very difficult after he left. As someone displaced in an urban environment, it was almost impossible for him to find a job. This changed after he found JRS. Now, he has his own food cart and can support his family once again.
Flor Marina once had refugee status in Venezuela, but she was deported back to Colombia in 2015. After settling in the city of Cúcuta she began a sewing shop with the support of JRS. Her business is booming. She sells her clothes in the town centre and even receives orders in advance from some of her faithful customers. She runs her new business with her family members, and the money has allowed her to build her own house.
Evelio arrived in Cúcuta in 1997 after fleeing the armed conflict in Colombia. He has participated in JRS livelihood programmes to learn metalwork, and now uses his skills to craft kitchen utensils and other necessary items. “Before JRS, I was very unmotivated, without any work. But now I have a project, I have the motivation to do something, and I have my own business that allows me to have economic stability.”