“Abriendo Caminos” – (Opening Roads) is the local name given to this Chicago based program known internationally as Cure Violence”. Five years ago Cure Violence was introduced to Colombia through the efforts of the Alvaralice Foundation and the alliances that were created in order to secure and make this project possible. On December 2016, Alvaralice was able to secure the grant to implement “Cure Violence” in Cali from the Inter-American Bank’s (IADB), Japan Special Fund (JSF) and the Office of the Mayor of Cali.
“Cure Violence” is a methodology for violence prevention created in 1995, and implemented in 2000, by the epidemiologist Gary Slutkin. “Cure Violence” approaches violence in an entirely new way: as a contagious disease using the same health strategies employed to fight epidemics. This approach is from a public health perspective, arguing that violence is a learned behavior that can be prevented through a three-dimensional strategy: interruption of the transmission, identification and transformation of the mentality of the highest in-risk transmitters, and the change of group norms.
On December 3rd, the Alvaralice Foundation held an event called “Abriendo Caminos: Communities Saving Lives.” at the main auditorium of the Colombian Central Bank. Its main objective was to present the results of the pilot project “Cure Violence,” which started two years ago in two neighborhoods of Cali.
The event was organized by Alvaralice Foundation, the municipal secretariats of security and justice and the undersecretariat TIO’s (Territories of Inclusion and Opportunities). It was attended by representatives of the Cure Violence organization from Chicago, the project’s work team, and its participants.
The neighborhoods of Charco Azul and Comuneros were selected for the implementation of the pilot project. These areas have been identified as very having high rates of crime, violence, street gangs and contested boundaries. Additionally, those neighborhoods are areas where government intervention is rare since they are considered high-risk areas.
The ICESI University is in charge of the project’s impact measurement, and, as such, presented the preliminary results. One of the positive effects of the project has been that the community understands that there are different ways to solve conflicts. In a recent interview, one of the violence interrupters said: “Yes, before, they used either a knife, a machete or a bullet to solve everything. Now people know they can mediate or interrupt violence, and then have a conversation. Now we have a more open mind and we have fewer dead people.” Similarly, relationships between neighbors have improved and there is a better use of public spaces and community resources.
One of the most important results has been in the reduction of violent acts and number of positive changes in both territories. The local university ICESI, reports that one of “Abriendo Caminos” achievements is that homicides and personal injuries are not inciting higher levels of reactionary violence. This is based on a 17% reduction in homicides in the territories where the project has been implemented.
Additionally, the project has demonstrated that during its implementation conflicts are beginning to be solved in a peaceful way. In Comuneros I, 55% of potentially violent cases were solved and in Charco Azul, 45%.
Also, Julieta Arboleda, Deputy Director of the Alvaralice Foundation, moderated a panel discussion with Brent Decker, Viviana Ronderos, Hawer Rodríguez, James Olaya and Johana Ledesma. They all shared testimonies and experiences they have lived in their neighborhoods. They also discussed how they arrived to the program, the positive transformation it’s had in their lives, and the aspirations they have for the future of their community.
The event came to an end with a theatre performance by the participants of the project, in which they presented the ways they intervene in violent situations that they face in their communities. Additionally, the supervisor of Comuneros I, Germán Cortés, sent a strong message to the city: “Peace is not built from the desks, but from the territory”.