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How Kiva is changing the story for internally displaced people in Colombia

January 15, 2020

It was 12 a.m. Albalibia’s feet were tired from selling cell phone minutes on the street all day when she arrived to find the door to her room knocked down on the floor. Most of her belongings were gone and the few that were left were destroyed and scattered all over the house where she was renting a room.

She went from a tired and defenseless state of mind after a long day of work to panicked in less than a second. Her heart dropped. She had no time to process what had happened, just act.

“My husband went to go get the police and they told us that we can’t be there anymore, or they will come and kill us.”

Albalibia, or Alba for short, believes that an organized crime group in the area were the ones responsible for the robbery as a threat to her landlord. A couple of days before this incident, they had killed the landlord’s brother.

“We went back for some things but they threatened me again so we just got some clothes and left the bed, pictures, everything. We were left with nothing,” Alba said.

Since Alba also had a beauty salon, the financial stability she was working so hard for was seized along with her equipment. Her life had been changed significantly and without her permission.

In that moment, Alba and her family of four became displaced in their own country.

Just like Albalibia, there are more than 7.8 million internally displaced people (IDP) in Colombia, making it the number one country for IDPs in the world. Syria ranks #2, with over 6.2 million.

Despite the peace agreement between the government of Colombia and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in 2016, which came after 5 decades of armed conflict, crime has continued. According to the UNHCR, many militants are still armed, hundreds of community leaders have been killed, and organized crime groups continue to submerge residents into violence as they fight for territory ownership, intentionally forcing many out of their homes.

On December 8, 2009, Alba was forced out of hers.

That night she stayed at a friend’s house, but many nights after that she was unsure where she and her family were going to sleep next.

“I felt horrible because eating on the street is bad,” Alba explained. “Seeing that the night is coming and trying to find a blanket to cover you -- it was horrible.”

It’s a situation that was put upon her and millions of people in Colombia without notice. How does someone get through having a home and then a moment later having nothing?

For Alba, it was her faith and undeniable resilience that is wired within her that is still getting her through it.

“One has to bring out that strength to overcome it all,” Alba said.

Her strength and hard work got her family from not having a home, to renting a “pieza”: a piece of square footage in someone’s house where her whole family lived. Now, they have an apartment. She also credits the quarterly stipend she received from the government.

But getting there wasn’t easy.

“I didn’t have anywhere to relocate my hair salon. I no longer had the hairdryer, straightener, nothing, absolutely nothing. I didn’t have the money to buy the equipment to work more, so I had to survive off of the cell phone minutes and the movies I sold.”

While her goal was to open her salon business back up, her earnings only let her provide her family with the essentials, making salon equipment purchases just out of reach. That is until a loan officer from our Field Partner Interactuar saw her selling cell phone minutes on the street and knew that like most people, there was a deeper story behind her situation.

After various visits, Alba then received a loan of $150 that was funded by 6 Kiva lenders. Each dollar from her loan made all the difference for her and her family. It changed their story.

“I bought a hairdryer, straightener, products for manicures and pedicures and this helped me get my salon business back up,” Alba said.

Having her salon equipment once again empowered her. While paying for a salon space may be too expensive at the moment, her determination leads her to seek opportunity by offering beauty services at clients’ houses. This hard work is creating a stable income for her and her family.

“I’m doing well with the business. Now with the loan... it helps a lot; it’s helping me get ahead.”

Although it’s been more than a decade since Alba and her family became displaced, her recovery is now taking flight and she thanks Ineractuar, Kiva and our lenders for giving her the opportunity to not only speed up her recovery, but also recreate a new chapter in her story.

As a lender, you helped her turn that page and now, Alba is powering through this new chapter stronger than ever.

“Next, is a loan for my house,” she said with a smile.

Right now, there are still thousands who are living a similar story in Colombia and the world. If you would like to help change their story around, like you did for Albalibia, you can lend now.