'We want to be owners of our own dream'

Thirty survivors of armed conflict in Antioquia now own 15 new businesses thanks to a microfranchise project with a focus on repairing and supporting entrepreneurs, who also suffered violence.


"If you can dream it you can do it". This is the phrase that was recorded in the minds of 30 survivors of armed conflict in Antioquia to undertake the challenge to overcome, heal the wounds caused by violence and become new microentrepreneurs.

They took it stamped on bags and pronounced it at the end of the official presentation of the 15 new businesses of their property that open the doors these days in 12 Antioquia municipalities, as a result of a microfranchise project of the National Government from three Colombian companies of consolidated businessmen. They, in turn, were also victims of violence.

It is about Café Arangos, the House of the Didactic and the Technology and Cafetos del Cedral. From the commercial brands of each of these firms, 15 productive units were created, each with two associated victims.

Empowered as the owner of the new Catando Café store, which she inaugurated in Rionegro, she was smiling and full of optimism, Natalia Alejandra Garro: "For me, this is a great opportunity and a new vision of the lived situations and a way of undertaking and continue forward, no longer as a victim, but as a businesswoman. "

After suffering forced displacement in Chocó, now motivates "want to be owners of our own dream, our own business and that opportunity will take us to achieve our other goals we want, such as economic independence and improve our quality of life."

A little over 10 years ago she fled displaced with her family from Carmen de Atrato, when an illegal armed group threatened them to leave their house. He says that "one day they arrived and they told us: they have to go". To get to safety, they had to leave: "We had our popes and my brothers go out and take the road at midnight without being able to take anything, in flip flops, because they did not leave us or make suitcases".

The project for the social inclusion of the population affected by the forced displacement meant an investment of 653 million pesos after a call from the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Tourism, operated by Innpulsa Colombia, whose bid won the alliance between the Unit for Comprehensive Attention and Reparation for Victims in Antioquia, the Expansion and Business Management firm and the Chamber of Commerce of the South Aburrá.

Entrepreneurship for repair

For the director of the Victims Unit in Antioquia, Wilson Cordoba Mena, "this project has to be a model not only for these 30 people, but for more than one million 380 thousand victims in Antioquia, and therefore in this new Government will bet on entrepreneurship, which is one of the ways in which victims can achieve their dreams, achieve reparation and, the State, overcome welfare. "

As an added value of the microfranchise project, the official stressed that "it is difficult to find businessmen who are victims helping to repair victims and that is why we have to accompany these projects in the territories, articulate with the public sector and the private sector, with international cooperation, because it is the only way that more than 8 million victims find light at the end of the tunnel ".

The 30 survivors benefitted from this project were selected after a call in different regions of Antioquia by the Victims Unit, which also provides psychosocial care.

From then on, after starting their commercial operations, they will have the support of businessmen and institutions, so that, as new entrepreneurs, they can take advantage of knowledge transfer and make fewer mistakes.

Piedad Cárdenas, manager of Cafetos El Cedral, one of the three franchising companies, founded in 2004, remembers that way. He remembers that his family was displaced from Huila in an area hit by the guerrillas. "We have experienced violence, but we want to turn difficulties into opportunities by generating employment for victim families. You have to do duels and overcome yourself, "he concluded.