Displacement: Commuters without Borders


“Displacement is no longer something that happens to you, but something that is experienced, learned, and potentially refined as a new skill.”

The concept for Commuters Without Borders sprung from Gloria’s experience working with Internally Displaced Persons (IDP’s), victims of Colombia’s internal armed conflict. It is a project that is specific to the conflict in Colombia, but may be adapted to other localities.

Displacement and its repercussions are manifold. IDP’s must leave their homes, jobs, and communities and integrate into the new culture, pace, and economic infrastructure of a new place, commonly a city. They frequently lack the necessary education to be competitive for work, lack the social and familial support structures of their former life, and have frequently faced severe trauma, including debilitating physical and psychological injuries.

In Bogotá, IDP’s tend to coagulate in settlements on the margins and outskirts of a city. In the slums, violence, insecurity and overcrowding are often the status quo. IDP residents lack crucial access to health, housing, employment and education. With few channels for social and economic mobility, this temporary solution for refugees can soon become a way of life. 

While the barriers to resettlement weigh heavily on individual lives, the failure of IDP’s to integrate into their new home can weigh heavily on a city’s infrastructure. This way of life is not sustainable, and contributes to overall instability, and social and economic unrest. Perhaps because of this, as with many refugee scenarios, IDP’s are considered a burden. In Gloria’s experience, however, IDP’s come with their own knowledge base, one that allowed them to extract themselves, at great risk, from life-threatening situations and quickly adapt into new ones. Could this experiential knowledge of marginality/ displacement be put to use to a better end?

Commuters Without Borders (CWB) is a program which works to find channels for IDP’s to integrate successfully into their new lives, all while actually contributing to a more sustainable infrastructure for the cities of which they are working to be a part. Rather than a once-in-a-lifetime moment, CWB re-considers the very idea of displacement, placing it on a quotidian scale. Displacement is no longer something that happens to you, but something that is experienced, learned, and potentially refined as a new skill. In this way, it becomes a mechanism for transforming the victimization of IDP’s into empowerment.

NEXT: CWB Bicycle Commute program >


All content on this website (c) Gloria Rodríguez 2017

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