Brief Summary from Global Grant Scholar 2016
Jessica Davine Northam
April 5, 2017
In 2016, I had the wonderful opportunity of being a Rotary Global Grant Scholar in Barranquilla, Colombia.  My experience as a scholar the past year has been challenging, exciting, and transformative.  As a scholar, I studied at La Universidad Del Norte in the Department of Psychology, but the most important part of my scholarship was my research with Internally Displaced Females.  Colombia is home to the world’s second largest population of Internally Displaced Persons, with estimates currently over 7 million. Women and children account for at least 75% of the population of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). 
While the Colombian government has worked in a number of ways to address the needs of this vulnerable population, including the construction of social housing complexes, this population suffers from continued exposure to violence, poverty, lack of education, and poor community wellbeing.  During my year as a Global Grant Scholar, I worked with small groups of female IDPs conducting drama therapy groups—a creative arts therapy that uses theatrical processes for therapeutic purposes.  The groups worked through current challenges, the trauma of displacement, and expressing their hopes and needs for the future. Only violence near the complex the night before the event prevented the women from sharing their stories in a theatrical performance. 
Results of the drama therapy intervention demonstrated a profound impact on not just the lives of the participants, but also the lives of their children and the communities. The project initially slated for six weeks, evolved into a yearlong session because the women did not want to stop. From the initial group of fifteen women led by me, the project now consists of community driven peer-led drama support groups, led by nine leaders, inviting there female neighbors and friends from Las Gardenias to join.  My experience did not end at the end of the scholarship year, at the request of the women, Rotary and Rotaractors, I am returning to Barranquilla to focus on Comunidades Fuertes (Strong Communities). The Rotary Barranquilla Colombia club and I are preparing a Rotary Global Humanitarian Project Grant to expand services and peer-led drama support groups throughout social housing complexes in Colombia, including men’s and adolescents groups.  Over the next three years Comunidades Fuertes will be working to train community leaders in Barranquilla and eventually nationally so that this community-driven mental and public health intervention can be available to IDPs. Included in the proposal is the development of a train the trainer manual and DVD to be used globally with victims of forced migration. 
I never imagined that this year of scholarship would help me make such an impact on peace and conflict resolution. Where prior to our group sessions, families in these complexes had not shared meals, play time, opened up their apartments, etc. When I returned from the winter holiday, the women shared with me that they had eaten together.
I thank Rotary for this amazing opportunity.  As I have seen many programs come and go over the past year in the same communities where I work, I am blessed to be a part of an organization that works tirelessly to serve vulnerable populations in the world and create strong communities.  As my host club, Rotary Barranquilla Colombia, with the help of our international sponsor, the Manhattan Rotary Club and District 5710, I encourage you to learn more about my time in Colombia, Comunidades Fuertes, and how you can be a part of improving the community wellbeing and psychosocial health of IDPs in Colombia by clicking on the links below. During my time in Barranquilla, I was fortunate to cross paths with a filmmaker who is developing a documentary on my work to be released in September. A 2-minute trailer is available below in the Vimeo link.