Natalia, our Field Officer in Bogota, is present as former child soldiers are reunited with their families.
In Colombia we don’t know exactly how many children and young people are members of the illegal armed groups. We also don’t know exactly how many of them have escaped from these groups or been captured. What we do know is that these children left their families, and the places where they studied and played, to join these groups, and that some of those who have left are now in programmes to help them re-enter society. CRAN, COTA’s new partner, runs one of these programmes and recently invited me to participate in one of their activities.
The activity was to be the first time that many of these children and young people would see the families that they left behind. It was simple – while the parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters waited in a room, CRAN showed them a video of each child. The child welcomed their family and spoke about what they hoped would come out of the meeting. Once the video ended, the child entered the room and their family welcomed them. They greeted each other and sat together while the next video was shown.
As I watched each child enter, be hugged by their family and share words of welcome, I thought about how strong these children are. I thought about everything they’d had to experience in their short lives, and about everything that they would have to go through to be able to change their future. I thought about how different all of us Colombians are. I watched a young indigenous girl enter. Her parents didn’t greet her, but her mum gave up her seat so that their daughter could sit in between her and her dad, who hadn’t been able to lift his eyes from the floor. I thought about how fortunate I am to have had the opportunity to be in this space and to hear their stories. I thought about everything that I need to learn and to do to help these young people come back into our society in a genuine, happy and permanent way.