A CHARITY worker knows the true value of Christian Aid Week after helping to rebuild communities in Colombia.
Jill Stone, who is Christian Aid's regional coordinator for Herefordshire and Worcestershire, spent two weeks in South America last October, gaining first hand experience of the work carried out with people who have suffered brutal violence and oppression at the hand of armed groups.
Mrs Stone, aged 52, stayed in the jungle with a community which has been displaced by paramilitaries who are acting for big companies who use the insecurity of the war to take land from peasant farmers for palm oil, bananas and logging.
Now she is encouraging others to support Christian Aid Week, which runs until Saturday (May 17), and communities in countries scarred by conflict.
Mrs Stone, from Stourbridge, said: ‘Christian Aid’s partner the Inter-Church Commission of Justice and Peace (ICCJP) help create humanitarian zones which are areas where displaced farmers live together for protection.
"These farmers have been displaced due to the internal armed conflict and without these zones they would be unable to return to their land.
"By having these zones protected by international law and promoted by internationals it means that the people are able to live safely in areas where the conflict is raging.”
During the trip, Mrs Stone met baby Milencheri, who at 4 months old, was the same age as her grand-daughter.
“When I compare the life that my grand-daughter will have, living in a safe environment, to that which faces Milencheri, with constant threats of violence and displacement, I know I have to make people more aware of what is happening in Colombia.”
Colombia has been at war for more than 50 years and has 5.7 million internally displaced people – the second highest of any country in the world behind Syria.
Mrs Stone was inspired by meeting Father Alberto Franco, who heads the ICCJP and works to fight for the human rights of displaced people in Colombia, facing regular threats and was subject to an assassination attempt early last year.
"When asked why he continues to do this dangerous work, he told us, 'To have seen what I’ve seen, know what I know and not act would be treason against my Christian faith.' This was incredible thing to say and really made me to think about my motivations in life."
Mrs Stone added: ‘Christian Aid Week is so important to all of Christian Aid’s work, so it is vital that you donate as it really does change the lives of thousands of people.
"Not only that, Christian Aid Week is brilliant at getting churches and communities to come together and speak with one voice against injustice in the world."
For more information and to make a donation, go to caweek.org or call 08080 006 006.