Comunidades Fuertes

Comunidades Fuertes

From Jessica Northam

Comunidades Fuertes is working to address the mental health needs of victims of conflict and forced migration in Colombia. Using Peer-Led Drama Therapy Support Groups we are improving Community Wellbeing.

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In 2016 when I moved to Barranquilla, Colombia as a Rotary Scholar, I really did not foresee my work there becoming long term.  My passion for working with victims of conflict and forced migration and witnessing the lack of psychosocial supporting and community wellbeing programs for displaced persons has made it clear that one year was only enough time to find what's needed and what works.  Now our goal, as a soon-to-be formal organization is create sustainability in our practices and reach more communities.

What is Comunidades Fuertes?

My research and community project for my scholarship was developed after witnessing the lack of psychosocial support and community wellbeing programs for displaced persons. After one year, I have a clearer idea of what’s needed and what works of drama-therapy groups for Internally Displaced Females in Colombia to address personal and psychosocial wellbeing. This project is now in the process of becoming a formal organization that trains leaders, in their home community, to direct peer-led drama therapy support groups.

What is Drama Therapy?

Drama Therapy is a creative arts therapy that utilizes theatrical processes  for therapeutic and educational outcomes.  The type of drama therapy that I have trained community leaders to use include modalities of Theatre of the Oppressed, Psychodrama, Role Play, Playback Theatre, and Sociodrama.  If you are interested in learning more about what Drama Therapy is, please contact me or explore the North American Drama Association: www.nadta.org

Where does Comunidades Fuertes Work?

Comunidades Fuertes is led by American Drama Therapist, Jessica Northam, and works in communities of displaced persons in Colombia, South America.  Colombia has the second largest population of internally displaced persons, in the world!  Estimates are that there are over seven million people who have been displaced due to to conflict and natural disasters.  The Colombian government has responded to the problem by creating social-interest housing projects where registered displaced persons can receive semi-free housing (they must live their for a certain number of years, pay for utilities, transportation, and food).  These social-interest housing projects are overcrowded, often dangerous, poorly constructed, and located on the outskirts of major cities.  It's a dramatic change for many displaced persons who come from farmlands and who are now unable to find work due to distance and transportation costs into the city and no land to cultivate. In addition, displaced persons are entered into raffles along with perpetuators of conflict and other impoverished persons to receive housing. 

What is the Plan for Comunidades Fuertes?

Over the next three years, Comunidades Fuertes will expand to include groups for men and adolescents in addition to women's groups.  Our goals include:

  • Train over 76 female peer-led drama therapy support group leaders in the barrio of, Las Gardenias - By end of 2017
  • Train 80 male peer-led drama therapy support group leaders in the barrio of, Las Gardenias - By end of 2018
  • Train 80 adolescent peer-led drama therapy support group leaders in the barrio of, Las Gardenias - By end of 2018
  • Develop Train the Trainer Manual (English & Spanish, with photos) for Peer-Led Drama Therapy Support Groups for Victims of Conflict and Forced Migration
  • Develop Train the Trainer DVD Manual (English & Spanish, with photos) for Peer-Led Drama Therapy Support Groups for Victims of Conflict and Forced Migration
  • Expand Comunidades Fuertes into additional government made housing for displaced persons in Barranquilla - By end of 2019
  • Expand Comunidades Fuertes across government made housing for displaced persons all over Colombia - By end of 2020

What is the Money Being Used For:

Today, when supporting Comunidades Fuertes you are helping the program achieve the following:

  • Registration as a formal Non-Profit with the IRS (As soon as we receive approval, all donors will be updated so future donations to the organization can be tax deductible).
  • Interim financial support for day to day project events while we apply for a Rotary Global Grant and other outside funding. This includes trainer the trainer workshops, weekly support groups, and community encounter events. 
  • Expansion of Comunidades Fuertes

What else is happening with Comunidades Fuertes?

Working alongside Federico Ahumada of Mayakara Films, the past ten months of work with Las Mujeres Fuertes (a group of women in Las Gardenias) we have been filming and preparing a full length documentary.

While we are close to having a complete product, every session spent with this group of women it becomes clear that their stories are meant to be shared through performance.  With your help, we will be creating a full-length performance piece written and developed by the women to be performed in theaters in Colombia.  Be a part of this opportunity to share this story and pledge today!

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