Taller de Vida, or “Workshop of Life,” was founded by two sisters who believed in harnessing art and self-expression as a means to combat psychological and physical trauma.
Taller de Vida provides youth affected by Colombia’s decades-long war with trauma counseling, education and a variety of after-school arts enrichment programs. From sculpting intricate bowls to engaging in spoken-word performances, child victims of the war are given platforms to express themselves creatively. They use art as a way to confront and overcome painful memories.
*Miguel is a young man from Altos de Cazuca, Colombia, who narrowly escaped forced recruitment with a group of paramilitaries. Miguel, impoverished and living on the streets, was on the verge of joining the paramilitaries when one of his friends intervened and sent him to Taller de Vida. Taller provided Miguel with a sanctuary and haven of self-expression. It changed his life. Miguel now has the opportunity to explore his identity outside the oppressive parameters of war and violence:
“I’ve been here a year and for me it’s been like salvation. First of all, because it’s a place where you feel like you are worth something to someone. They listen and respect you for who you are. They help you to be a better person and to love and take care of yourself. Thanks to your help, I am studying and playing in a capoeira group. This has helped me so much. I have learned to control myself. I have learned things about myself I never knew. You have helped me to see that there are other options for me besides war. Going to Taller de Vida means getting a chance to LIVE, to know ourselves, to realize that it doesn’t stop with us not going to war but that we must do something for our country. We have shown the adults of our neighborhood that we are capable of doing productive things. We are beginning to gain their respect. The armed groups have not gotten to us because we are no longer going to them desperate.”
*Miguel’s name has been changed to protect his identity