Colombian borders: “Education opens doors and minds”

The traditional image of refugees in sprawling camps located in rural areas no longer serves to tell the true story of refugees: 60% of the world’s forcibly displaced live in urban environments. Urban refugees are often invisible. Their safety is constantly under threat and they are often denied access to basic services and are exposed to significant social vulnerabilities. The barriers to their integration are not only institutional and legal, since it depends in large part on how local host communities respond to newcomers.

60% of the world’s forcibly displaced live in urban environments

“The first time i went to a jrs training session was unforgettable”

María Dolores is an Ecuadorian woman who moved to Cali, Colombia, where she lived for 18 years until the violence from the armed conflict got so bad that she was forced to return to her home country in 2007. “I lived [in Colombia] for 18 years, struggling and everything…”, she explains, “but it didn’t affect me like when I returned. When I came back it was critical. Although I sought help and my four children are Colombian, my children were granted refugee status but I was denied. Then I decided to switch to my children’s nationality”.

After returning to Ecuador, María Dolores participated in the School of Citizenship and Human Rights* run by the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) in Ecuador, which we support through the On the Colombian Borders program. “The first time I went to a JRS training session was unforgettable,” she explains. “I started working with Colombian colleagues, we got involved, and we started an association”.

The School of Citizenship and Human Rights is an initiative that seeks to create an educational space where both refugees and migrant organizations can learn about their rights in terms of citizenship and migration.

After seeing that many adults in their community were illiterate, they decided to talk with JRS and do something to address the problem. “We joined forces with several young people from another organization”, María Dolores explains, “who are the teachers for a literacy initiative for adult refugees and asylum seekers in San Lorenzo. Education opens doors, opens minds, opens new horizons, new life opportunities…you see life differently”.

«Education opens doors, opens minds, opens new HORIZONS, new life opportunities… you see life differently»