Although many of the school children who live in Colombia have never seen an armored vehicle, helicopters or any fighting in their streets, it doesn’t mean that they have been spared the tragedy that has dominated the country for the last 50 years. This armed conflict has become one of the longest in recent history.
Quite a few of the children are keeping a deep dark secret— when they were barely a few months old, their parents left them with relatives to go into the jungles and join the FARC. The FARC is Colombia’s revolutionary armed force also known as the People’s Army.
This group recruits teenagers as young as 13. Many of them come from very poor families and have no hope of being able to study or prosper. Some come because they were invited by friends or by other family members and others join because they are tired of being neglected by the government. About 40% of the recruits are women who are so committed to the cause that they willingly leave their children behind to start a new life in the rainforests. The relatives don’t usually know what became of them and most simply believe that they died.
The women in the guerilla say they have never faced any type of discrimination and it’s because they don’t ask for any special treatment. They willingly carry loads and do any hard work without complaints. The guerilla women go into the communities trying to convince other women that they need to stand up and fight for their rights because there’s more to life than taking care of a house and a husband. They believe that the FARC is fighting a just cause.
The guerillas blend in with the people who live near their camps and they help out in any way they can. They also organize soccer games to be able to bond with the locals and gain their trust, because FARC needs civilian support and sympathy. The people in the small communities feel that the government has abandoned them and quickly develop negative feelings towards them.
The camp is always on the move and each combatant is required to carry loads that are somewhere between 60 and 80 pounds, which is roughly 40 kg. They need to carry that while walking up to 100 km in one day. Living as a guerilla is not easy, but they are all convinced that it’s not only necessary, but well worth it.
In 2015 FARC declared a ceasefire in order to facilitate the peace process. They had been in negotiations and peace talks with the government for a number of years. Until now it has remained unilateral.
What about the children that are left behind because the parents chose to join the FARC and fight? Find out now.