Last year, we made a short film in a small neighbourhood called El Oasis in Medellín, Colombia. The majority of the people living in El Oasis have fled armed groups elsewhere in the country, as well violence inflicted by criminal gangs within Medellín itself. They constructed their homes out of loose materials available in absence of affordable housing options or government support. In 2015, the government violently evicted 38 houses to make way for an urban renovation project, but did not provide any housing solutions for the people of El Oasis. They were left in the streets. Many returned to live with neighbours or construct new homes because they did not have anywhere else to go. The film was about these experiences and the relentless issue of displacement in Colombia.
Yesterday (18/08/17), the remaining houses in El Oasis burnt to the ground (please see video report above). We do not yet know exactly what happened. What we do know is that El Oasis' has been resisting forced evictions for a long time now. There have been multiple complaints directed towards the response of the fire service, which, for many residents, was slow and inadequate.
For many, this is not the first time they've lost a home. Through no fault of their own, they lose everything. In 2007, El Oasis suffered a fire of similar proportions. 200 homes burnt to the ground. Many never received any housing support, so returned to construct housing in El Oasis because they had nowhere else to go. They are desperately in need of shelter, food and basic goods.
We don't know what will happen regarding housing solutions, but past incidents suggest these will be problematic to obtain. At present, many families are bedding down beneath the motorway bridge nearby.
Looking forward, whether they await the unlikely possibility of an affordable housing solution, or begin to rebuild what they lost - I want to raise money to support the people of El Oasis in whatever small way possible. I am still exploring the best means to do so, but I want to make an immediate plea to my friends, family, colleagues and acquaintances, here, to donate what they can, if they can. I will then send the money on to trusted friends in Medellín.