Colombia’s parliament recognized the Adventist Development and Relief Agency for more than 25 years of dedicated work in the South American country, including being among the first responders in a deadly 1985 mudslide.
House Representative Hernan Sinisterra Valencia presented the Order of Democracy Simon Bolivar Commanders Cross to Gabriel Villarreal, ADRA Colombia’s country director, at a special ceremony in the parliamentary building in the capital, Bogota. The award consists of a medal and certificate.
Sinisterra thanked ADRA for its early role in providing assistance and humanitarian aid after the November 1985 mudslide buried the town of Armero and claimed thousands of lives. It was one of the worst tragedies in the country’s recent history.
“This inspired me to give this recognition to ADRA, with the purpose to motivate them to continue working and helping the most needy people,” Sinisterra said.
He pledged that Colombia would do its best to help ADRA expand its humanitarian work.
Senator Edinson Delgado said the recognition was given to ADRA after a review of its assistance to communities in Colombia.
“We have a country that gives opportunities to everyone, and NGOs play a fundamental role and should continue contributing to building that new society,” he said.
The government’s recognition is a first for ADRA and one that becomes a historic recognition in the Adventist Church’s Inter-American Division and beyond, said Wally Amundson, the recently retired ADRA Inter-America director.
“Colombia is a very special country with many different challenges, and the fact that ADRA and its volunteers and professionals are always ready to respond to any situation is something that calls the attention of the government,” said Amundson, who attended the Dec. 1 ceremony after served as ADRA director for more than 23 years in Inter-America.
ADRA has carried out many initiatives in Colombia, including relocating displaced persons, training female heads of household to lead income generating businesses, teaching family home garden classes, and preparing people for emergency and disaster response.
“I believe that ADRA made a great impact in the life of this country, and this is why we are living in this historic moment,” Amundson said.
ADRA, established in 1956, operates 134 local offices around the world that provide assistance when disasters strike and carry out the day-to-day implementation and management of regional programs.