The following story is from a young woman named Marta, who was forced to join a paramilitary group in Colombia when she was only 11 years old. MADRE's partner organization in Colombia, Taller de Vida, has aided her in escaping a life of violence.
“We never experienced a childhood,” said Marta, who was kidnapped and trained to fight for a paramilitary group in Colombia when she was 11. “We exchanged our dolls for rifles, our games for combat.” Marta was eventually released onto the streets of Bogotá but she could barely read and was haunted by the killings she had been forced to commit.
Marta found MADRE’s partner organization, Taller de Vida. Today she helps other young people heal from the wounds of war and build real alternatives to lives of violence. “Taller de Vida gave me una nueva vida (a new life),” said Marta. The organization provides trauma counseling and remedial education to help children who have been displaced catch up on their schooling, adjust to life in the city, and defend their human rights.
Taller de Vida also offers after-school sports, art, and theater programs to help young people develop their artistic talents and learn to express themselves through acting, dance, writing and painting. These programs help young people who have experienced enduring trauma from the armed conflict envision—and work to create—a more peaceful world. Through art, the youth at Taller de Vida are able to share past experiences and build a network of support for their future.