Years of conflict and violence in Colombia damaged communities, displaced families, and left people traumatized. As the nation rebuilds, the government’s Victim’s Unit provides support through policies and programs that help people cope and move forward. By pairing individual healing with activities that bring communities together, Blumont’s collaboration with the Victim’s Unit is inspiring municipalities across the country to take a new approach to funding recovery.
In Belén de los Andaquies, nearly half the town’s residents were registered as victims of conflict. The Victim’s Unit invited survivors, including women and children, to participate in group counseling sessions with a Blumont therapist.
Each group met for nine sessions, discussing challenges, learning coping mechanisms, and establishing supportive connections. After the initial sessions, Blumont added three meetings to help participants put what they learned into action—transforming a private journey of emotional recovery into a public expression of community and progress. Residents of Belén de los Andaquies used these sessions to refurbish community centers.
“In each neighborhood and rural village where we arrived, Blumont invested in partnerships to rehabilitate community centers,” said Edilmer Leonardo, the former Mayor of Belén de los Andaquies. “Today we see that those communities are in excellent conditions and this makes people feel very grateful that, in addition to rehabilitating emotional harm, they see a change in their environment.”
“[The community center] is used by the whole community,” said Monica Trujillo, President of the Ventilador Neighborhood Community Action Board. “It is a place to meet, to gather together, both adults and children, because we are a very united neighborhood.”
With the success of these efforts, the Belén government sought funds to continue programming.
“We decided to use the emotional recovery group strategy,” said Edilmer. “We realized it was the most complete and appropriate one to implement in communities affected by violence.”
In 2019, Belén became the first municipality to apply to the Royalties System funding pool to support emotional recovery work. Previously, the Royalties System—funding set aside for implementation of community programs—was used only for infrastructure projects. But leadership in Belén had a different idea.
“Rehabilitation is not just about infrastructure,” said Edilmer. “We need to think about how to psychologically contribute and give victims a hand to move on from violence and leave it behind.”
Belén received the requested funding and used it to conduct counseling sessions for children. At the end of the sessions, Blumont worked with the municipal government to build a new playground.
“We identified a pattern in how children express the emotional effects of armed conflict,” said Juan Pablo Franco, Blumont’s Colombia Country Director. “They say, ‘I had to stop playing with my friends.’ Their main loss was play, so we create a place in their community where they can all play again. That is how we connect emotional recovery in groups with the rehabilitation of communities.”
To encourage other municipalities to apply for Royalties System funding to support emotional recovery efforts, Belén officials worked with Blumont to create a video sharing their story. By expanding funding sources and implementing their own programs, local governments are also freeing up Victims’ Unit resources, which enables the government to then reach more communities and expand coverage of emotional recovery activities—a key requirement of the Peace Agreement.
The commitment to emotional recovery in Belén has continued, even as new local leadership took office.
“We continue to work hand in hand with the Royalties System to use these cooperative agreements with Blumont to strengthen the emotional recovery strategy for boys and girls in our municipality,” said Mayor Tomas Rosero, the current mayor of Belén.
Work is still underway in Belén, as group counseling sessions were expanded to adults.