The study participants were 44 people in total: 29 women and 15 men from rural areas of Colombia. 75% are between 19 and 25 years old, and 25% are between 26 and 46.
Past: Initial expectations and perspectives of the program
Some concerns among the trainees were leaving the family behind; the uncertainty generated by the program due to ignorance of health issues, which in some cases generated distrust in their abilities to comply with the program and whether they would meet the expectations.
Several of the trainees were skeptical of the offer and hesitated to accept it. This is due to the abandonment that their territories have suffered, where false expectations have been created and state entities and non-governmental organizations have broken promises.
¨Because, well, [the territories] are a red zone […] many entities have entered that have promised things, but everything has been lies like they just wash their hands […] Our communities have been very deceived, […] they are tired of receiving more of the same. (FG-TR-06)
Even getting involved in this technical training created fear, which in some participants was associated with the possibility that it was a plot to threaten their safety:
"“P1: No, and even then, […] we arrived with fear, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. […]
I: What is the thought? […] A massive kidnapping?
(several people answer yes)” (FG-TR-02)
The trainees decided to join the program and explore the possibility of studying and training to achieve some of their dreams or goals. Most of these expectations are related to improving their material living conditions through their training and access to formal jobs.
Present: Positive aspects and challenges
The focus groups were held after completing the fieldwork stage in the regions, where the trainees returned to their territories to start an internship in local hospitals.
During the focus groups, the participants commented that the program transformed their way of thinking and changed their way of seeing and interpreting things.
“[…] this project […] has helped me to heal many wounds, and in a certain way, maybe, obviously, I used to say ¨the one who kills, well we kill him¨, and I thought like that. […] Suddenly they did not choose war, which the same state, the same society has been in charge of, of throwing them as in a corner, and they have not had any other way.” (FG-TR-04)
They also mention that by acquiring knowledge in public health, they were able to take their communities’ wellbeing into their own hands.
“P3: […] one came from there, like from the village, like anyone who walks along it. But when we got back, it was like starting […] to care about the community. I mean, from the [aquired] knowledge, like start doing, to know more about it, about the history, about the population, about what health problems arose. […] As an empowerment of our own community, which we did not have.” (FG-TR-04)
A challenge mentioned was reconnecting with the community, creating empathy and credibility to fulfill the purpose of the program:
“To get them again, I mean, to believe again, well, that everyone is not going deceive them, […] we still have to get them to trust again, that people are going to do something, that they will want to change, yes, a community, or their minds (FG-TR-06)”
In addition to the difficulties of facing urban dynamics, especially when one has lived in rural areas, trainees reported challenges related to coexisting with trainees from different regions, with different life experiences, tastes, and customs; specifically the coexistence between victims and ex-combatants, and the evolution of preconceived ideas.
“P3: I mean, I’m in a way with those who hurt my family, my mom, right? But then, as I progressed and I continue to advance, and I continue to grow […], and knowing the world more […] is that one realizes […] that it is not because they want to and they feel like it, no. It is because many [things] influence so that, in a certain way, they move on to look for opportunities in another way. […] So, basically, yes, one came here and started to get to know everyone and knows that there is a story behind each of us.” (FG-TR-05)
Future: Opportunities, fears, uncertainties and difficulties
When inquiring about expectations and thoughts for the future, the participants reported having ideas of opportunities to apply what they learned in their communities. However, they also showed great uncertainty, fear, and difficulty applying what they learned, mainly referring to difficulties related to economic financing and job opportunities in remote regions.
“P2: Our knowledge can help a lot in the community, but it also depends on how you see the importance, or how government entities act in our case, because we can bring knowledge, but if after we finish the program, we have no other way of hiring. […]
P1: and […] many of the positions in the state, let’s say in the municipalities, depend on clientelism or politics.” (FG-TR-04)
“[…] they make this investment […], but what good is it? if we finish the practice and nobody assures us that they will continue […] replicating what we learned here, collaborating with the people who really need it […]” (FG-T-07)
Lastly, the apprentices expressed fear of facing the workplace in their territories in the future, especially due to security problems in their territories security, and structural deficiencies.
“We are all from different regions of the country, right? There are areas where coca is grown, areas where it is not […]. But, in a certain way, I say, there was more tranquillity, when it was known that there were one or two groups, which was the FARC and the ELN; as opposed to now, and this is reflected in the deaths of social leaders. How many social leaders have been killed this year, or since the peace agreement was signed. And in one way or another, we are going to do that, we are going to be [social] leaders in our communities.” (FG-TR-04)