Swiss PBI volunteer Sophie Helle’s reflections on her 18-month deployment in Colombia

Published by Brent Patterson on

On February 19, Peace Brigades International-Switzerland posted, “PBI volunteer Sophie Helle wrote four short articles for the online platform Jet d’Encre after her return from deployment in Colombia. In it, she talks about her experiences as a volunteer in action in Bogotá, where she lived and worked for 18 months.”

You can read her full articles (in French) here, and short excerpts below:

They love each other like they hate each other

“6am, the alarm rings. He quickly turned it off so as not to wake his neighbor. With hushed steps, he loads his linen, his clothes, and leaves the room. While he wants to enter the bathroom, the door is closed. He is waiting. Once the flushed toilet, a colleague comes out. She is surprised to meet him if good morning. Ruffled hair and puffy eyes, she doesn’t ask questions and go back to bed. Twenty minutes later, the mission is accomplished: it is showered and clothed, the day can begin. No one understands why he gets up at dawn. For him, this is his guarantee to have your own space before the hectic day begins. He lives where he works with 10 other colleagues.”

Here, no hierarchy

“I am neither an intern, a project manager, nor a director. Here, no hierarchy. The boss, it’s you, it’s me, we’re all on the same level. Your opinion counts as much as mine and you are just as responsible for taking of decisions than me. This organizational structure is horizontal. It is weird, impossible to complain that the decisions made were bad, or that senior executives only do as they please. The game’s rules? Fair and pragmatic participation by all members of the organization.”

The body speaks

“While it is imbued with emotions, experiences, and lived year after year, the body is not only there for the unspoken. It tells our deep story, the one we tend to to forget in our snapshot society. Control object and symbol of success, we only leave it with channeled and authorized expression spaces. The body is suppressed.”

The ingredients for success

“You have done high university studies. Your brain has always been your first working tool: reflection, debate, questioning, definition of new strategies. The required brain performance is of a high level. Your brain can’t fail you. Effectiveness and relevance must be at the Appointment. To shape it, you need a neat body. A spirit lively in a healthy body: these are the ingredients for success. And then there’s the dancer, your police girlfriend, your neighbor TV presenter, and her ambulance childhood friend. Professions that reverse certain rules of the game where the bodies play a preponderant role. Along with some accessories or a uniform, their body is instrumentalized. Presence, postures and gestures are well worked. Everything is played out in the transmission of a message, an emotion, an idea.”

To read the full articles by Sophie, please click here.


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