"Colombian Refugees in Ecuador: CRS Photo of the Month" (CatholicMom.com) Photo by Ryla Simmons/Catholic Relief Services. Copyright 2017. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

As we prepare for the Lenten season, we are called to encounter one another—to look for Christ in our neighbors all around us, and to go with peace into the world each day. On a playground in Ecuador, two little girls are an example of this peacebuilding, reminders that despite challenges, many Columbian refugees are being welcomed with love into their host communities.

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The girls are at play just outside the Scalibrini Mission, an organization supported by Catholic Relief Services for the past 8 years. It reaches about 1,700 families a year—about 8,000 people—with individualized support designed to help refugees integrate sustainably and with dignity. In Colombia, armed guerilla groups, the illegal drug trade and human traffickers have forced millions from their homes. Many of them already among the poorest of the poor, they face seemingly insurmountable obstacles setting out with the hope of refuge and a safer life in neighboring Ecuador.

Today, an estimated 250,000 Colombian refugees live there, where they are denied government resources. Many also face discrimination, inadequate housing and domestic violence. Young people in particular lack opportunities to learn and work. But, with the help of the Scalabrini Mission and CRS, refugees receive legal support, counseling and financial advice, and schools are trained to hold activities promoting peaceful coexistence. Martha, a refugee whose family receives support, says, “Even though we are living in adversity, we think of our family and friends. We want to join other people and share with them and live a normal life.”

To read the complete story, visit crs.org/stories/colombian-refugees-ecuador.