Murdered fathers, driven sons


In an extraordinary piece of political theatre,

two Colombian senators recently faced off in a debate in the national congress.


One, Iván Cepeda, accused ex-President Álvaro Uribe

of being connected to paramilitary groups, while Uribe responded angrily,

accusing Cepeda of being involved with the left-wing guerrilla.


Both these senators are victims of the conflict:

Uribe’s father was murdered by the FARC,

and Cepeda’s, by the paramilitaries.

And they are not the only ones, there are several other members

of congress whose fathers were also murdered.


When political passion is driven by such pain,

it is difficult to see where the leadership for a national process of reconciliation

is going to come from, unless the church steps up.






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War and peace: the cost


As the peace process grinds on in Havana,

the weekly Semana news magazine published

an article about the cost of the conflict in Colombia –

and the possible cost of peace

(just re-intergrating all the demobilized guerrilla

to civil society will be incredibly expensive).


Three figures stuck out that illustrate the human cost of displacement:


On average a household suffers a 50% drop in income after being displaced.

60% of displaced people suffer from some form of chronic mental ill health.

A displaced person is 6 times more likely to suffer from depression

than the average campesino (peasant farmer).

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What it’s all about


Here’s a story from one of our clubs which perfectly illustrates

the integral care we train our club leaders to provide:

A little boy turned up at the Club with a health problem,

so the club leaders asked a doctor in the congregation to examine him,

and it was established that the child was suffering from malnutrition.

The leaders discreetly started to feed the child more in the snack time at the Club.

One of the child’s symptoms was a sore on his upper lip

which they treated until it cleared up.


They were also able to speak to his parents

who were devastated to know their son was malnourished

and who came to church looking for support.

The whole family is now attending church and the little boy is better.

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Conversation with a child


I met a child on the seminary campus,

a little girl who used to visit our office a lot.

She ran up to me, gave me a big hug

and said Have you found your Shrek yet?

No, I replied, sadly. What am I going to do?

Don’t worry, she said. Your Shrek is going to come along

and rescue you one day.

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Something that happened

I got the bus down to the metro, as usual,

when a man, neither young nor old, got on,

stepped over the turnstile, and walked to the back of the bus.

Then, I noticed that everybody who got on the bus

seemed to be bunching up at the front.

So I started to get the idea that the man who got on

was some kind of hoodlum who was going to rob us

or  murder someone on the bus or extort the bus driver.

But he didn’t.

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Let’s hear it for the wonderful ladies of Buenaventura


An NGO in the Colombian city of Buenaventura

has been honoured with the annual Nansen Refugee Award,

awarded by the UN  for “extraordinary humanitarian work on behalf of refugees,

internally displaced or stateless people”.


The NGO is called Butterflies with New Wings,

and works with the displaced and victims of sexual violence

in a city that has been wracked by violence for decades.


One of the founders says: Here you risk losing your life

whether you put up a fight or not. It’s better to die fighting.

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So much to do, so little time

These are exciting times for Vive Kids:

A new colleague, charity status as a foundation, lots of interest in our materials, great feedback from the Clubs on the series on the prevention of sexual abuse, a wonderful team of local facilitators in place, ready to replicate Clubs in their areas…the result is a kind of breathlessness, an enormous sense of privilege, a feeling that the days are too short, that a lifetime won’t be enough for the task we have been given.

But of course, the key is that it is not our task. And in the words of Oscar Romero: We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work. We lay foundations that will need further development far beyond our capabilities. We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that this enables us to so something, and to do it very well.

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And the moral of the story is, don’t get sick in Colombia


I am beginning to think the health care system

in Colombia exists to prevent people getting access to it.


If you can afford it, health care in Colombia is excellent.


But for most people, the challenge is to negotiate the Kafkaesque bureaucracy

associated with the health insurance companies.


Imagine you are sick. First you have to get permission

from your health care provider to get an appointment

with a doctor. But that permission is time-limited.

So if your permission runs out in the time you have

because you are not able to get through to the people who make the appointments

(because the phone lines are busy or the system is down or because they

don’t give out appointments on a Monday) you have to start again.


Then you see a doctor who decides you need certain tests.

Back to your provider to get the permission,

and then off to get the tests done somewhere else.

Back to the doctor with your test results under your arm,

finally to get some treatment.


So you go to your provider for permission for the treatment…and so it goes on.


If you live in the UK, NEVER complain about the National Health Service,

it’s the jewel in our crown.


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