Inspiring thoughts

Before even broached the subject of her story, Wendy spoke for a few minutes. In a particularly beautiful moment, she mentioned she would like to become a doctor to help people. Quite an impressive aspiration, considering her family past.

The extent to which Wendy and her family were conditioned by the conflict is heart-breaking. She turned nine without a school opportunity.

Some parents have nothing for their children as a result of forced displacement, and her mother – Diana - knows how hard it is to raise kids in conflict areas.

But, how to become a doctor without access to education? 

Wendy´s family started from nothing. Her mother lost everything when she fled to save her live. “A shooting star passed around us and a man was killed. I used to leave in a dangerous area. In the past, while going for a walk, you could feel blood spattered on your clothes”, said Diana.

They knew it was going to be difficult to start again. Indeed, Wendy and her three siblings had no opportunities to access to school. Nevertheless, Wendy's mom knew that education is a great privilege that can lead anywhere. She came to that conclusion because she never managed to study. Neither before her forced displacement nor after the displacement.

A year ago, Wendy had the opportunity to access her first school, her eyes filled with the most uncontrollable happiness described the excitement of going to school. We could see that she finally has the life that she imagined as a young girl. “The school is beautiful, it has classrooms, a person who prepares food and teachers”, said Wendy.

Wendy now lives in Tumaco, a corridor for drugs, weapons and, increasingly, unidentified armed people. Community leaders have been murdered and shootings and mortar fire became part of life in her neighbourhood; but she knows that education is key to change her life, and maybe the life of others too, if someday she becomes a doctor.

Photo: Fernanda Pineda/NRC
Colombia

I dream of becoming a doctor

Landmines on the route to school. Armed occupation of the classroom. Getting caught in the middle of crossfire. This is the situation affecting thousands of school children in Colombia. But this does not stop children like Wendy from dreaming of a bright future.

Wendy lives in a remote part of Colombia. For the first nine years of her life, she never had the chance of going to school.

Wendy’s family is one of thousands who have suffered from the internal armed conflict in Colombia. Her mother, Diana, was faced with a tough decision: to remain in their home and put her family’s lives at risk, or to flee and start again.

“I used to live in a dangerous area,” Diana recalls. “In the past, while going for a walk, you could feel blood splattered on your clothes.”

Diana took the decision to flee, and the family had to start their lives again. It meant that Wendy and her three siblings were unable to attend school.

Foundations for a bright future

Diana was never able to study herself. But she knows that education is a great privilege that can lead anywhere.

One year ago, Wendy had to opportunity to go to school for the first time. Her eyes filled with happiness and excitement.

“The school is beautiful” she said. “It has classrooms, a person who prepares food, and teachers!”

Education is a fundamental human right for all children and youth. Displacement has a devastating impact on learning, and often leads to an education being denied or interrupted.

Armed groups are an increasing presence in the region where Wendy’s family now lives. Community leaders have been murdered. Shootings and mortar fire have become a part of her life. But she knows that education is the key to changing her life. She hopes that someday her dreams will come true and she will be a doctor. That way, she can help change the lives of others too.

Inspiring thoughts

Before even broached the subject of her story, Wendy spoke for a few minutes. In a particularly beautiful moment, she mentioned she would like to become a doctor to help people. Quite an impressive aspiration, considering her family past.

The extent to which Wendy and her family were conditioned by the conflict is heart-breaking. She turned nine without a school opportunity.

Some parents have nothing for their children as a result of forced displacement, and her mother – Diana - knows how hard it is to raise kids in conflict areas.

But, how to become a doctor without access to education? 

Wendy´s family started from nothing. Her mother lost everything when she fled to save her live. “A shooting star passed around us and a man was killed. I used to leave in a dangerous area. In the past, while going for a walk, you could feel blood spattered on your clothes”, said Diana.

They knew it was going to be difficult to start again. Indeed, Wendy and her three siblings had no opportunities to access to school. Nevertheless, Wendy's mom knew that education is a great privilege that can lead anywhere. She came to that conclusion because she never managed to study. Neither before her forced displacement nor after the displacement.

A year ago, Wendy had the opportunity to access her first school, her eyes filled with the most uncontrollable happiness described the excitement of going to school. We could see that she finally has the life that she imagined as a young girl. “The school is beautiful, it has classrooms, a person who prepares food and teachers”, said Wendy.

Wendy now lives in Tumaco, a corridor for drugs, weapons and, increasingly, unidentified armed people. Community leaders have been murdered and shootings and mortar fire became part of life in her neighbourhood; but she knows that education is key to change her life, and maybe the life of others too, if someday she becomes a doctor.

Photo: Fernanda Pineda/NRC
Read caption Wendy with her mother Diana. Photo: Fernanda Pineda/NRC

Conflict putting children at risk

Colombia’s six-decade-long armed conflict continues to force hundreds of thousands of people to flee their homes. The country has the second largest internally displaced population in the world after Syria. More than five million people depend on humanitarian aid.

Between January and August 2019, more than 10,800 children and about 650 teachers were affected by situations that endangered their lives and limited their education, according to monitoring carried out by the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC).

Nathalie Duveiller, education specialist with NRC Colombia, shares her concerns:

“Serious violations of education can have a devastating effect on the future of children. The Colombian government must guarantee education and give hope to children and young people in every corner of the country.”

Some schools in 'El Catatumbo'  use white flags as a distinctive symbol  in areas affected by armed conflict.

We support children to go back to their educational institutions and we provide new school uniforms.

Photo: Milena Ayala/NRC
Read caption Some schools in El Catatumbo, Colombia, use white flags as a distinctive symbol in areas affected by armed conflict. Photo: Milena Ayala/NRC

Helping children get back to school

NRC has been active in Colombia since 1991. We help displaced families keep their children in school, and work with youth and adults so they can complete their education and find safe vocational training opportunities.

We also train teachers so that they can best teach and support their pupils during an emergency.

We encourage the Colombian government to adhere to the Declaration of Safe Schools and ensure that education is protected, and that strict measures are taken against those who violate its principles.

“The reactivation of the conflict requires the government to adopt new measures that guarantee the right to education. When schools are attacked and roads are mined, the sense of security vanishes in the territories”, says Duveiller.

Read more about our work in Colombia

They live in Tarra, a territory affected by mines and armed conflict in Colombia.

We promote that children and youth return to education with new school supplies.

Photo: Milena Ayala/NRC
Read caption Three girls walking to school in Tarra, a territory affected by mines and armed conflict. We provide children and youth with new school supplies to help them return to education. Photo: Milena Ayala/NRC
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