June 10, 2009
“We have been offered human support, as well as technical and economic, which we now see reflected in the construction of a new home where we can experience security, well-being, and the freedom to consider how we can now continue to improve our lives.” -Irna Palencia Solar
Montería, also known as the “Livestock Capital of Colombia” or the “Pearl of Sinú,” is located in Córdoba, Colombia.
Next to Chocó, Córdoba is the poorest department in the country. Nearly 70 percent of its population does not adequately meet their basic needs. Thirty-six percent live below the locally defined poverty line. (National Department of Statistics)
Adding to this problem is the rising frequency of forced evictions that occurs due to political unrest, or when residents cannot prove legal ownership of their land. In 1997, there were some 8,500 displaced individuals, mainly in the municipalities of Montelíbano, Puerto Libertador, Tierralta y Montería. In December of 2001, this number rose to 37,926. Recent studies show that 89 percent of the displaced are concentrated in Tierralta and Montería.
Irna Palencia Solar and her children—Duban, José, David and Ana Maria—are not strangers to this reality. Irina was displaced from Moñitas 15 years ago due to prolonged violence in her community, and took refuge in nearby Montería. Since her arrival in Montería, she has fought continually to find permanent shelter where she can invest in a better quality of life for her children and where her family will not risk being moved again.
Irna works in a hotel in the city, earning a monthly wage of under US$100. Her and her children share a single, crowded room with another family. Desperate to provide something better for her family, Irna made a firm decision to find land, pay for it in whatever way possible, and begin to build a home where she felt she could live with dignity—however long it took.
It was then that Irna discovered Habitat for Humanity. After working through the application process, Irna also met Andrew Archie Johnston, a Canadian volunteer working with Habitat Colombia, who was also no stranger to her situation and offered a generous donation to help build the home.
In an expression of gratitude, Irlina states, “in the name of God, my kids, and myself, I thank Andrew and the organization that he represents with all my heart. They have understood the situation that my family has been tangled in—financially, socially, and in terms of shelter. We have been offered human support, as well as technical and economic, which we now see reflected in the construction of a new home where we can experience security and well-being, and the freedom to consider how we can now continue to improve our lives.”
Paola Mora is the national Communications Coordinator for Habitat for Humanity Colombia.
Photos courtesy of Habitat Colombia.