MADRE’s local partner, Taller de Vida, works in Usme, an urban district of Bogotá, Colombia that has been particularly affected by displacement caused by the ongoing armed conflict. The population of Usme is primarily composed of low-income families, with 80 percent of families working in the “informal economy.” There are three armed actors active in the area, putting children at a high risk of recruitment into a life of combat. Taller de Vida is currently working with 250 children and young people in the center in Usme in order to rehabilitate former child soldiers and to prevent the recruitment of others through awareness-raising activities.
Taller de Vida continues to offer alternatives to violence to young people in Bogotá who have been uprooted from their homes and are at high-risk for being recruited as child-soldiers. Some of their activities include trauma counseling, art therapy, and recreational programs such as dance and theatre. They are also very active in informing Colombian youth of their human rights. One of Taller de Vida’s most successful endeavors included former child-soldiers learning videography through a project entitled Reinventing Life through Art, which allowed them to document and heal from their traumatic experiences. In 2007, MADRE volunteer Miguel Macias traveled to Colombia to train 16 young people to use professional digital cameras and video editing systems as part of this program; Miguel is planning to return to the country to continue his work with youth.
The Bambu Project is a psychosocial intervention program that works with young ex-combatants in offering them basic tools for successful reinsertion into society. For five years it has facilitated, in the population they serve, skills to enhance dialogue, negotiation, mediation and ultimately overcome violent scenarios through workshops on theater, video, photography and dance. The project also provides a variety of activities to local primary and secondary schools to prevent and raise awareness in the community of the issue of child soldiers. Right now, Taller de Vida is working with Colegio Monteblanco in Usme, serving 3,000 kids, 140 teachers, 120 people from the community and 150 parents. Finally, the project entitled Proyecto Corazon de Cebolla is aimed at encouraging children to view education as an important asset to be valued, therefore motivating them to stay out of armed conflict.
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