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Testimony of a Former Child Soldier in Colombia: One Young Girl's Story

Posted on: Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Keywords: Colombia, Peace Building, Human Rights Advocacy, Latin America and the Caribbean, Profile

“When it was my turn to kill someone, I always hid my face because I was afraid.”

Thousands of children, some as young as eight years old, are being used as soldiers in Colombia's armed conflict. Once the children are recruited as soldiers, the armed groups become the only family they know. As they grow up, child soldiers tend to cling to a life of combat, perpetuating a war that has already lasted more than 40 years.
MADRE provides critical services for children who are at high-risk for being recruited as child-soldiers, giving them the social and psychological support they need to create alternatives to a life of combat and violence.
Through our local partner, Taller de Vida, we provide trauma counseling, art therapy, and recreational programs to young people who have been uprooted from their homes by war and poverty. With training from MADRE, Indigenous and Afro-Colombian youth are learning videography and photography in order to document and heal from their experiences of war and displacement.

My mother was 15 when she first fell in love.  She had me when she turned 16 but only took care of me for four months before leaving me with my father and my grandmother.  My dad left me a month later.  I lived with my grandmother and studied and worked.  I spent almost all of my childhood working.  I sold things like food and toilet paper in the street.  We lived in a neighborhood called La Esperanza, in the southern part of Bogotá.  

I was seven when my grandmother fell ill.  I was already in the 5th grade but I had to work in a bakery to earn money while my grandmother was in the hospital.  Later, I started begging for money because I couldn’t make ends meet.  

A week after I turned eight, my grandmother died.  I became homeless but I still worked and went to school.  When I turned 11, I decided that I could either go on living in the street, or I could join the guerrillas.  I went to where they were and did basic training for five days.   

They gave me a gun and taught me how to use it.  They told me that life would be hard with them and that they don’t get paid anything for what they do.  I told myself, “Life here is easier than in the street.  Stay.”  After basic training, the big guys from the army came to the camp.  My first order was to pick up a little dog and hold it.  They shot at me and killed the dog.  After that, I became tougher.

When it was my turn to kill someone, I always hid my face because I was afraid.  I went to bed dreaming of the people I had killed. 

War is something terrible you do to people who don’t want to be guerrillas.  These people are stuck in the middle and they are killed by the soldiers for saying things like, “You are guerrillas, you are assholes,” or whatever.

One day they made me kill an old man but I couldn’t do it.  They sentenced me to death so I had to run away.

The guerrillas were my family but because I betrayed them, they wanted to kill me.  They were a family that didn’t forgive. 

You can offer a second chance to girls and boys who were exploited as child soldiers. Make a gift today.

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