Peter Orsel

Casa Embera, Medellín

November 2022

During a free walking tour in Medellín, Colombia, we encountered some beautifully dressed ladies, living in poor conditions on the streets. I saw that my tour guide was touched by their situation, and after the tour, she said she would visit them again. I found that so intriguing. She walks the streets every day, seeing countless people begging for money, yet she decided to go back and see if there was any way she could help them. I asked if I could join her, to see if there would be anything we could help them with. 

When we got there, they shared their heartbreaking story with us. These ladies had escaped from the jungle because armed groups had invaded their territories, giving them no choice but to leave immediately. Embera tribes – who live in the jungle – have their own dialect and live a self-sufficient lifestyle. Even though they don’t have the skills to fit into modern societies, they’re still able to create amazing handcrafted goods. Think about jewellery, clothes and more. 

These people used the little money they had to buy bus tickets and headed to the city. They arrived with nothing – no money, no food – but they had their babies and children to take care of. It was devastating to hear that two of the ladies had lost their husbands in the attacks, and we could see the desperation in their eyes. 

We bought some first needs and spent some time with them. After that, I asked if I could take some photos as I wanted to share their story. I wanted to give them a voice. 

This is how we encountered them on the streets.

The story continues below these photos.

After we left, my tour guide gave me the contact details of Beth and Travis, an American missionary couple. They moved to Colombia to assist the Embera tribes in their reintegration into the city. Many of them are unable to return to the jungle, so Beth and Travis support them through crafts and education for their children. They invited me to visit Casa Embera, where they take care of the children and engage in jewellery crafting.

I was amazed by the impact Beth and Travis are making. They made the decision to leave their American lives behind and serve in Colombia. After living in the Amazon region, they have now established themselves in the city. Their care house is located in a dangerous neighbourhood in Medellin, but they walk around fearlessly, sharing jokes in slang with the locals.

Every weekday, children from the Embera tribes gather at their house. They receive lessons on the Spanish language, hygiene, food, and God. Why God? Because it’s only through His grace that Beth and Mercy are able to accomplish all of this.

Before the children arrive, we visited some families at their homes. It was confronting to witness the living conditions in these houses. Families of five living in a cramped four-square-meter space, with only two thin mattresses on the ground. We spent time with them, provided them with food, and I had the opportunity to learn more about their way of life.

The story continues below these photos.

Right after we came back to Casa Embera, the children arrived. From the moment I met them, they had my heart. The regular volunteer couldn’t make it that day, so I stepped in to assist wherever I could. Additionally, I took photos to support their marketing campaigns and to raise more funds for this project.

These were undoubtedly the best days of my entire time in Colombia. It’s incredible to witness the work that God does through His people. Even though my contribution may have been small, it’s a story that will remain in my heart for a lifetime.

If you want to learn more about Casa Embera or the Embera Bead Project, visit these websites:

Embera Bead Project 
Buy bracelets and other crafts to support the living conditions of Embera tribes relocated in the city. 

Casa Embera
Read more about the care house and seek for opportunities to support the amazing organisation. 


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