In the series "afterwar", I photographed children coming from families internally displaced by violence. During the last 55 years, Colombia has held a civil war that has killed hundreds of thousands of people. Is it ending? I don't know, currently, it all seems fuzzy at the political Colombian milieu.
The situation is that because of the poverty and inequality lived in Colombia, a lefty group called the guerrilla raised up in order to fight for the rights of people. However, they killed many who didn't conformed to their way of thinking. So that, another group raised up to fight them, they were called the Paramilitares and they were supposed to come from the landowners and the military. In spite of that, they were also killing all of those who didn't follow them or those who supported the guerrilla. This last group did the same thing, committing terrible atrocities against innocent people including children who in many cases were recruited forcibly.
This happened mainly in the country side of Colombia, where people were less protected. They were farmers or peasants that scared for their safety left their homes in search of a safer place. Almost 7 million people were internally displaced from their homes. The safest places they found were the big cities, mainly Bogota, the capital of Colombia.
These families arrived usually with very little money, no place to live, no jobs, having left behind family members and all the life they had before. So that, many of them went to places that they could afford, including neighborhoods that were located in chanty towns. They would build their houses by their own hands with all kind of materials they found or were given by free or by little price. The place I went was a red zone, meaning a dangerous place to live.
As you can imagine, they live under great poverty and often do not have enough to feed their own children, who by the way, are many!
Now you can start to understand their life context.
The foundation I worked with, is called "Encuentro con la vida" which means "finding life". It was founded by an amazing woman who deeply cares about helping children to succeed in their lives. She has the collaboration of other women who are some children's mothers who cook for the children, besides making clothes to sell in order to raise money to buy food.
The foundation feed the children at noon in weekdays as well as help them with homework. It has a great impact on the lives of these children who happened to be better nourished than many who are not in the program (only 80 places). For many of the kids, this is the only good food they have since often they only drink agua de panela (water with sugar) for dinner.
The children were incredibly amazing. They were funny and very playful as I would expect of any child. They were normal children with different problems than our children. They seemed content and happy kids but I cannot deny the fact that they have passed through a lot and despite of their hard lives, they look so smiley!
By the way, I learned that there was a Japan project there, bringing depressed, suicidal young Japanese people to recover their willing to live and it seems it was a good success. Isn't it amazing?
Those children gave me lessons of resilience and showed me their example as something that I could also follow during my life. I knew they were worthy and strong! I knew it! And this travel confirmed my expectations.
I want to show you with this work a little part of their souls. I don't expect you to deeply understand them or know them by only these photos but I think I succeeded by showing you their different expressions completing a general spectrum of their souls.
I hope you enjoy the series and increase your awareness of these children, not only because of their difficulties but by the example they also can set for your lives.