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Migration and Empowerment in Colombia: Nini’s Story


March 8, 2022 • 3 min read

Starting a business is difficult, especially as a woman living in a neglected, vulnerable community. 41-year-old Nini Jhoanna Buitrago has defied all the odds.

From humble beginnings, Nini now owns a thriving diversified internet café in Colombia.

“I started with three computers,” Nini says, describing the early days of business, “Then I started to add a little more.”

Nini now sells groceries and stationery to attract new customers to her business.

Nini Jhoanna Buitrago in the grocery section of her business in the Villas de Girardot community in Bucaramanga, Colombia.

Overcoming obstacles

Ten years ago, Nini arrived in the Villas de Girardot community in Bucaramanga, Colombia. Like all migrants, she was searching of better opportunities and a decent life.

Despite having savings, Nini still struggled to find a home, “At the beginning, it was difficult. House owners were unwilling to accommodate us. We were able to settle in a little house made of wood,” she says.

Nini describes her life as one of constantly overcoming obstacles. She puts up her best fight in every challenge. Her belief is that such experiences have built the woman she is today.

Nini initially owned a successful food stall. Unfortunately, she had to close the stall to comply with local regulations. Nini went back to the drawing board and tried to set up her internet café but her loan application was rejected. Despite the setback, Nini refused to give up on her dream. She kept trying and finally received financial backing to launch her internet café.

Being a businesswoman is only one part of who she is. Nini is also a mother of three, grandmother of two, and a community leader for GOAL’s Barrio Resiliente (Resilient Neighborhoods) program in Colombia.

Supporting Migrants in Colombia

Nini is among the 600 women who have benefited from the Barrio Resiliente program, and among 7 million women GOAL supports every year globally.

Thanks to USAID support, GOAL staff in Colombia are building economic resilience for vulnerable migrant families like Nini’s and their host communities through training, technical and financial assistance. GOALies are also working with families to promote inclusion and fight xenophobia in these communities.

Nini with Lizeth Rangel, a Disaster Risk Reduction Technician with GOAL.

Nini lauds the program for teaching individuals to look out for others, even when facing own difficulties.

“You learn that you are not the only one with problems. Many have it worse,” she says.

Nini’s tenacity led her to participate. She says it has also helped her grow her business.

A celebration of resilience  

For Nini, being a woman is a gift, “No matter how many difficulties we face at any time, we always find a way to move forward,” she says.

Family is everything for Nini. Her children are her inspiring her success, “It’s because of my children – as mothers we go out into the world to try and give them everything they need.”

Not resting on her success, Nini is striving to make a difference for her family and her community. “My dream is to be bigger. It is to serve my community a little more than I am doing the moment.”

You can support GOAL’s work in Colombia with a donation today.