Testimony of a Former Child Soldier in Colombia: One Young Girl's Story
Posted on: Tuesday, June 29, 2010
“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.
Archives"Press Room" Home November 2014 October 2014 September 2014 August 2014 July 2014 June 2014 May 2014 April 2014 March 2014 February 2014 January 2014 December 2013 November 2013 October 2013 September 2013 August 2013 July 2013 June 2013 May 2013 April 2013 March 2013 February 2013 January 2013 December 2012 November 2012 October 2012 September 2012 August 2012 July 2012 June 2012 May 2012 April 2012 March 2012 February 2012 January 2012 December 2011 November 2011 October 2011 September 2011 August 2011 July 2011 June 2011 May 2011 April 2011 March 2011 February 2011 January 2011 December 2010 November 2010 October 2010 September 2010 August 2010 July 2010 June 2010 May 2010 April 2010 March 2010 February 2010 January 2010 December 2009 November 2009 October 2009 September 2009 August 2009 July 2009 June 2009 May 2009 April 2009 March 2009 February 2009 January 2009 December 2008 November 2008 October 2008 September 2008 August 2008 July 2008 June 2008 May 2008 April 2008 March 2008 February 2008 January 2008 December 2007 November 2007 October 2007 September 2007 August 2007 June 2007 May 2007 April 2007 March 2007 February 2007 January 2007 December 2006 November 2006 October 2006 September 2006 July 2006 June 2006 April 2006 March 2006 January 2006 December 2005 November 2005 September 2005 August 2005 July 2005 April 2005 March 2005 November 2004 October 2004 April 2004 March 2004 January 2004 December 2003 October 2003 September 2003 June 2003 April 2003 January 2003 September 2002 June 2002 January 2002 November 2001 October 2001 September 2001 August 2001 January 2001
MADRE & Our Partners Make News
Iraqi government 'likely complicit' in persecution of LGBT community (The Guardian, November 19, 2014)
LGBT Iraqis face 'imminent risk of death' under Islamic State (Washington Blade, November 19, 2014)
Iraq: "When Coming Out is a Death Sentence" (San Diego Gay & Lesbian News, November 19, 2014)
The World's Obsession With Schoolgirls As Victims, And Why It's Putting Them In Danger (Think Progress, November 9, 2014)
Forbidden Talk - Prostitution in the Middle East (Levant TV, October 7, 2014)