With capacity development, a Colombian NGO helps Venezuelan migrants heal, access rights

July 31, 2023
In the gray shirts, Luz Dary Ramirez, Corprovid co-founder, and Ana Isabel Munoz Marquez, Corprovid director, with two women who take part in Corprovid's programs. Credit: Brian Clark/Pact

Virgenid Chinchilla has been victimized her whole life, but for years, she never talked about it.

Chinchilla grew up in Colombia but fled to Venezuela when her home country became too violent. Then, five years ago, the tables turned. Armed groups were taking over in Venezuela, and Chinchilla had to run again, back to Colombia, to the northern border city of Cúcuta.

It was here that she joined a program for migrants through a local NGO called Corprovid. Chinchilla learned about her rights as a migrant and received critical support to process trauma she’d endured.

“I was a different person before the project. I was in a cocoon. I didn’t talk to anyone,” she says. “Then I realized there were other people who’ve been victims too.” She recognized all of the violence throughout her life, by her parents, her partner, from conflict in Colombia and Venezuela.

Corprovid saved her, Chinchilla says.

This is exactly what the organization was designed to do, says Corprovid’s director, Ana Isabel Muñoz Marquez. But she says it was just a dream until the nascent nonprofit began partnering with Pact through the Conectando Caminos por Los Derechos project, or CCD.

Funded by USAID, CCD is working to support Colombia’s efforts to prevent and respond to human rights violations among Venezuelan migrants, Colombian returnees and receptor communities, in order to increase community cohesion and citizen security. Much of CCD’s work focuses on building the capacity of local organizations that are working to improve migrants’ lives and foster integration, such as Corprovid.

“We wouldn’t exist as we do now without Pact,” Marquez says. “Pact is how we built ourselves. Pact made us strong.”

Luz Dary Ramirez and Ana Isabel Munoz Marquez show off puppets that Corprovid participants use to express themselves. Credit: Brian Clark/Pact

Corprovid began working with Pact and CCD in 2021. CCD announced that it planned to provide capacity development support and funding to strengthen local NGOs helping migrants in Cúcuta. Corprovid applied and was selected from many organizations, kicking off an intensive, strategic strengthening process that empowered Corprovid to effectively design, fund and implement its own initiatives – all aimed at furthering its mission of preventing human rights violations among migrants, especially women and children. 

“It was like getting a master’s degree,” Marquez says. “We had mentors of the highest quality.”

Among the many things that Marquez and her colleagues learned, she says, was the importance of understanding the communities they hoped to serve and truly listening to their needs, to be innovative, and to be as concrete as possible in all plans.

“This is now a part of all of our projects,” Marquez says.

With funding from CCD, Corprovid launched initiatives to address gender-based violence and human trafficking among women and children from migrant communities. And it began its “Metamorphosis for Life” program, which provides psychosocial support for migrants like Chinchilla. The program uses puppets and theater to help women express themselves and gain knowledge, and the impact has been immeasurable.

Chinchilla didn’t know anything about theater or creative writing before, but they helped her to heal. “I learned that I have value, and I am resilient. I learned I have rights.” Maybe if she’d had this knowledge earlier, she could have better protected herself, she says.

Now that Corprovid has implemented projects with Pact and USAID, other funders and partners have sought out the organization, enabling it to vastly expand its impact, Marquez says.

“Pact is how we built ourselves. Pact made us strong.”

One of its key achievements has been creating a collaborative working group of nine local NGOs that support migrants, after Pact impressed upon Corprovid the importance of networks. Corprovid also now takes part in city committees and other government and technical spaces working on migrants rights, anti-human trafficking initiatives and more.

Because of support from CCD and Pact, Corprovid has a strong place in the ecosystem of civil society in Cúcuta, Marquez says.

“For Corprovid, Pact is family.”

Conectando Caminos por los Derechos is funded by USAID under the Human Rights Support Mechanism. The project is implemented by a consortium led by Pact that includes the American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative, Freedom House and Internews.