Vistahermosa: A región of hope
Vistahermosa, literally translated to mean Beautiful View, is a region located in Colombia’s Meta department in the south-eastern part of the country. For 50 years Vistahermosa has been marred by the ugliness of war. The population has experienced the worst of the on-going violent conflict between Paramiliatries, Government forces and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC-EP). As a result, the region has the highest number of landmine victims in Colombia and the people living here have mostly forgotten what peace feels like.
In October 2016, that began to change. NPA were tasked to form a regional base in Vistahermosa and facilitate a humanitarian demining project in the community and nearby municipalities of Mesetas and Uribe. Landmine removal is critical to reversing the devastating impacts that war has on farming communities like Vistahermosa – it allows farmers to grow crops, creates a safe space for Government development projects to be implemented and increases overall security for civilians living the reality of war.
In Vistahermosa, this has changed the lives of two such women – Tatiana, age 20 and Jimena, age 27. Tatiana and Jimena come from two different backgrounds, but both their lives have been greatly impacted by one thing: the war.
Twice, the conflict has uprooted Jimena from her home in Vistahermosa. The first time, she was only 12-years-old. Paramilitary groups stormed into her village and threatened to kill her and others if they did not give them information about the FARC. The second time, FARC had gained control of Vistahermosa and were trying to recruit young, energetic combatants and Jimena fit this category perfectly. But Jimena did not want to fight, so she was forced to flee her home a second time.
Tatiana does not speak much about her experiences of war. ‘The conflict is over’, she says. ‘It was painful and I only hope it never happens again’.
Since NPA began their project in Vistahermosa, they’ve been able to provide employment opportunities for over a 100 local people living in the community. For Jimena and Tatiana, this has meant they are able to start their lives again, have a steady income and empower themselves and others and to become examples to the rest of their community. Tatiana applied to work as a deminer for NPA after graduating from school, shortly after NPA’s project first started. She didn’t know much about mine action, but still thought demining would be a good way to earn some money. Jimena, despite being told demining was a “man’s job”, showed courage and applied anyway. She hopes her work will inspire and empower other women living in the region.
Despite the obstacles Tatiana and Jimena have faced, they are deeply encouraged by the work NPA are doing. As deminers, they feel they are contributing to the restoration of Vistahermosa; bringing healing to their families and communities after war. Tatiana and Jimena believe that releasing land back to the community is a way to help bring peace to Vistahermosa. One day, they hope Colombia will be free of landmines and they are glad they get to be part of the story.