Leaving the past behind

Colombia

Warning: this article contains reference to sexual violence

Camila* (21) used to start each day weighed down with the struggle to provide for her father and five-year-old daughter. But today, head held high, she is putting a painful past behind her, building a business and looking forward to the future.

Living happily with her parents, Camila was a studious girl who loved learning. She dreamed of all that she might study but in one afternoon, when she was 14, her world came crashing down.

Hidden pain
‘My life suffered a terrible change from the moment I was a victim of rape,’ says Camila. ‘The armed men subjected me to death threats. The change in my emotional life was that I locked myself up, with many fears. I did not leave my room, I stopped going to school, I was afraid of all men and anyone who would visit me.’

Sexual violence was a common, horrific thread in Colombia’s protracted conflict, with thousands of victims carrying their pain in silence.

Tearfund’s partner, CORSOC, has helped churches to create support teams to work with survivors of sexual violence. Weekly discipleship sessions, along with emotional and spiritual support, bring healing and restoration to many women.

Love in action
One day Camila met a lady who was part of one of these teams. By this time Camila was a single mother selling vegetables and fruits on a tricycle through the streets of her hometown.

‘I barely earned enough to get food for just one meal per day,’ she remembers. ‘My life was thinking about many things, without finishing high school, fighting for the well-being of my daughter and my own.’

But the love shown by the support team and the church began to strengthen Camila. Hope started to rise in her heart. Her self-esteem is growing and now, thanks to some financial support from CORSOC, so is her business.

Moving forward
She was able to establish a fruit and vegetable store at her home and was given a fridge. Now she can add cold fruit salad with yogurt or ice-cream to her offerings.

‘I now have a business that has grown and is benefiting others,’ says Camila with a smile. She has employed four women who are all heads of their households. Some of them are also survivors of sexual violence.

‘I feel very happy. I am excited because I truly believe I have a future with my daughter. Together we will move forward – the past must and will be left behind.’

*Name changed to protect identity

Please pray:

  • Pray that God continues to strengthen Camila, giving her wisdom and understanding to move forward with her daughter and her business.
  • Praise God that CORSOC has been able to help more than 150 women through these support teams, and pray that more can be reached through the work.
  • Pray for Colombia as the nation grapples with this challenging aspect of its history.

Cheryl Bannatyne

Cheryl is a copywriter for Tearfund where she gets to share the great stories of lives being transformed around the world.