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Making Displaced Colombians Visible

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We're emailing to say "¡gracias!" for participating in the 2009 Days of Prayer and Action for Colombia. Whether you mailed postcards to President Obama, organized a prayer service for your local congregation, or simply sent good vibes in our direction, you were part of the largest national call for peace in Colombia and change in the United States' approach since 2003. Give yourself a pat on the back—you deserve it!

Yes, there are many stories and we want to hear them all (please send your stories and photos to Travis at twheeler@lawg.org!). But the story that we'd like to share and celebrate with you today—the one that so inspired us and gave hope to Colombia's displaced–is that of the paper dolls.

When we started to plan this year's Days, Colombians were being forced to flee their homes at the astonishing rate of 1,500 a day. We knew that we had to do something to make this crisis visible to people here in the United States, especially to our own government, but we lacked a symbol that could grab hold of the public's attention and galvanize people to action.

dc_rally_cq When the eureka! idea finally came, we weren't sure if we had something or not, but it seemed improbable enough to work—and it even sounded fun. So we sent out e-alerts asking you to work with us and your communities to make thousands of cut-out paper dolls representing Colombia's millions of displaced people and then we'd use them in creative public actions and advocacy with our representatives in Congress and administration officials alike. We watched in amazement as this seemingly far-fetched idea took on a life of its own: dozens of doll-making house parties held in every region; lesson plans on the displacement crisis for junior high students; stoles covered in paper dolls worn by religious leaders during prayer services; life-size dolls made by displaced communities in Bogotá and used in public actions in the states. It was quite an effort!white_house_lawg_staff

On the Day of Action here in Washington, we held a public rally in front of the White House and, within earshot and sight of the Oval Office, we called on President Obama to stand by Colombia's victims and proudly carried 4,000 paper dolls creatively displaced on cloth banners. We wish you could have joined us, but it was a privilege to represent your voice as we spoke truth to power on that rainy springtime afternoon. You can see a photo essay here, a photo slideshow here, and videos of the rally's speakers on LAWG's YouTube Channel

The Days are over, but we must continue our collective work to make Colombia's displaced people visible to the American public and to push the American government to stand by these victims and provide them with the help they desperately need. So today, we'd like for you to send a few paper dolls to your members of Congress with this message: "President Obama's aid request for internally displaced Colombians and refugees fleeing violence is not enough. Please work to substantially increase U.S. funding to these victims who are in desperate need of humanitarian and social aid." If you hear anything back, please send it along to Travis at twheeler@lawg.org or you can fax it to him at 202-543-7647. We will write with more ideas for action and resources soon, so stay tuned to your inbox and thanks again for all you've already done!