As part of U.S. leadership in humanitarian affairs, the State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM) works with international and non-governmental organizations to provide assistance to ease the suffering of the most vulnerable people, seek long-term solutions, and support efforts to resolve the causes of displacement.
Blumont’s Closing Gaps program in Colombia, funded by PRM, is a great example of this work in action. The program provides direct humanitarian assistance to victims of forced displacement and armed conflict, while supporting government institutions to better respond to displacement and conflict in 18 municipalities.
As part of this program, Casa Pintada (Painted House) project, breaks down barriers by bringing neighbors together and encouraging a sense of pride and ownership in shared community spaces.
Implemented in ten conflict-affected communities in Caquetá, Cauca, and Córdoba states, neighbors restored and repainted buildings in their communities, rehabilitated each other’s homes, all while restoring rebuilding community relations that were shattered by decades of conflict and forced displacement. Over 700 families were involved in the project. Throughout the process of refurbishing and painting homes, Blumont psychologists worked with families and community members to help them process the effects of long periods of displacement and begin community-level healing. Participants also shared that there was a significant positive emotional and communal impact from transforming and beautifying their shared spaces.
In the words of one community member from Caquetá, “I believe that the effect of Casa Pintada is that we are more united. We were able to work together and support each other. I see now that the best way to take care of each other is by learning to keep calm, to listen, to respect each other, and to avoid acting in a violent or aggressive way.”
The program aims to prevent further conflict and assist community self-reliance through four main objectives:
- Strengthening local government capacity to provide victim assistance: While conflict victims are entitled to many services under Colombia’s Victim’s Law, the offices responsible for helping people at the local level are under-resourced. Blumont provides staff trainings and resource planning.
- Providing for the basic needs of newly displaced families: From temporary lodging to assisting families to enroll their children in a new school, Blumont helps families get back on their feet.
- Strengthening victim’s representation in government: Blumont works with displaced communities to better convey their needs and concerns to local authorities. In some cases, they support displaced people to join local government committees.
- Promoting emotional recovery and rehabilitation of communities and victims: From group counseling to community projects like Casa Pintada, Blumont helps displaced people regain a sense of safety and dignity and process trauma to promote healing. Projects like Casa Pintada demonstrate the U.S. commitment to helping repair after years of armed conflict and displacement.
About the Author: Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Lesley C. Ziman joined PRM in 2020. She is responsible for humanitarian assistance programs in Europe, Central Asia, and the Americas. She also overseas PRM’s Offices of Policy and Resource Planning; and the Comptroller. She is a career member of the Senior Executive Service.