Maria has set up a restaurant with other families in Colombia with help from Caritas.

Credits: CAFOD

Maria* and her eight-year-old daughter are caught up in the endless conflict that has been devastating Colombia for over four decades. This war has leftmany people dead andmaimed.Millions of people have been forced fromtheir homes through fear, or inMaria’s case, quite simply because her home no longer existed.

“I was forced to flee my home in the countryside with my daughter when illegal militias burnt it down,” she said. Maria, 44, lives in a little shack made out of wood and plastic in the shanty town of Huila, in southwest Colombia.

“There is only one bedroom and I have no toilet or running water,” said Maria, who is a single mother.

Half of the displaced people in Colombia are women, according to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC). Forty-seven percent of displaced households are headed by women.

Maria used to make a living by selling empanada snacks. Then, after training given by Caritas, she and some other families set up a restaurant.

Besides Maria’s restaurant, 25 businesses have been set up, including a coffeegrowing cooperative, shoe and clothes making activities, a chicken-rearing business, a beauty salon and a scrap metal yard. The programme also provides counselling and legal advice.

The aim is that these enterprises, based on people’s existing experience and expertise, will enable them to earn a good income and become more self-reliant.

“I really hope our new business will be a success. There are many problems for young people in this area, such as drugs, so I hope this business will give me the opportunity to provide a better life for my daughter and also to find a new home,” said Maria.