Group works to stop children soldiers in Colombia

Latin America

In Colombia, recruiting minors into illegal armed groups has reportedly risen since the peace agreement with FARC rebels.

Just this week, eight minors were found among the dead after a bombing raid by Colombia’s military.

Now, one Colombian foundation is helping children from conflict-ridden regions rebuild their lives.

CGTN’s Michelle Begue reports.

Clarena Acevedo had two options as a 14-year-old girl growing up in the Catatumbo region get married and start a family or join the FARC guerilla group.

“I needed to travel two hours by car to study in the town. But, that was a whole different scene. I had friends who were part of the FARC. You start to be associated with them even if you aren’t part of the organization,” said Clarena Acevedo a former student.

Clarena just wanted to go to school. With support from her mother, Clarena decided to move to Bogota and start a new life with support from a foundation called Benposta. The school houses 100 children and teenagers from eight years of age, and up, who want to build a future without armed conflict.

“We work with their potential and giving them the opportunity to discover themselves and create a life project,” Jose Luis Campo the President of Benposta Colombia said.

Since its start in 1974 Benposta has kept a presence in some of the toughest regions of Colombia, to give the country’s youth a different future. David Cueno also arrived at Benposta from a conflict zone when he was 15-years-old. He now attends a Bogota University and hopes one day to open his own foundation in his home town, so he can share what he learned at Benposta.

“If we all learned to make decisions for ourselves and for the common good, this would be a different world. Another thing you learn at Benposta is to live with others and tolerate differences,” Cueno said.

Clarena says today she is the person she is thanks to this school. She is halfway through her vocational studies to become a nurse-a calling inspired, she says, by her love for her mother.

“I know I couldn’t help her with what happened at home, with the abuse. But, I can help her from nursing, because nursing is the art taking care of others, being there, not just an injection or medicine. It means listening to others,” Acevedo said.