Transforming Lives

Every day, all over the world, USAID brings peace to those who endure violence, health to those who struggle with sickness, and prosperity to those who live in poverty. It is these individuals — these uncounted thousands of lives — that are the true measure of USAID’s successes and the true face of USAID's programs.

Challenging logistics, high cost of travel and armed conflict in Colombia’s judicial district of Villavicencio made holding court hearings very difficult until a USAID program installed virtual court rooms in the region.

USAID is increasing access to justice for Colombian children who are victims of sexual and other abuse through its support to Creemos en Ti or the “We Believe in You” Foundation and Bienestar Familiar, the Colombian Government’s Family Protection Agency.

Paula Correa is not the real name of this 24-year-old woman, who is still afraid of the danger to her and her 8-year-old son. Her story is one of loss and pain, survival and hope, hard work and an encouraging future.

Paula’s family had to abandon their farm in the province of Cundinamarca, where they grew beans that were often stolen by the FARC. After FARC rebels killed a relative, and threatened her mother, two brothers and her baby son, Paula had to run.

Residents of Soacha, Colombia, and the surrounding areas learned to resolve their differences through mediation thanks to an award-winning USAID-supported program.

Even for minor disputes between neighbors, residents like María Nelly Criollo of the rural municipality of Chaparral in Southern Tolima had to travel long distances to seek redress from the legal system. For years, the political unrest, tough terrain, presence of illegal armed groups prevented the Colombian justice sector from serving the region on a regular basis. However, the situation recently changed with the help of USAID.

For nearly ten years USAID has worked with the Pan American Development Foundation on a program dedicated to the economic reintegration of families displaced by violence. Over the years, USAID has supported numerous projects for the most vulnerable sectors of the population in Bogotá. Among the projects is a community center which hosts a cafeteria called Rebuilding Dreams (Reconstruyendo Sueños in Spanish).

Over the past two decades, Colombia granted greater autonomy to local governments, including more control over public resources. With greater authority came increased responsibility, but few municipalities had the capacity to effectively carry them out. USAID’s efforts to address these needs through its Democratic Local Governance Program have achieved widespread success -- and several awards.

Manuel has to concentrate when he tries to remember his age. “I stopped counting the years long ago,” he says with a rueful smile. The last birthday he remembers was when he turned 60, and that was “a while back.” Manuel has lost his family and his friends. Now, he is trying to start his life again.

Manuel arrived in San Vicente del Caguán, in Colombia’s Caquetá region, after being forced off his farm at gunpoint by guerillas. His farm was in the Tolima region, a long way from San Vicente del Caguán, even by bus.

“I never imagined that a cookie recipe could become my future,” said Dwilliam Norberto Toloza, describing his success as a commercial baker.

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Last updated: August 12, 2013