Violence at school: Felix's story
Felix is one of the millions of young people whose lives have been torn apart by the violence in Colombia. Yet his experience shows that something positive can come from the most wretched circumstances.
Felix was just 12 when paramilitaries attacked his community and massacred members of his family, including his uncle and two cousins and left scores of others dead and wounded. He not only witnessed the attacks but then helped the Red Cross recover the bodies. As a result he could no longer sleep, became aggressive and withdrawn and was consumed by thoughts of revenge.
Following the attack, he and his family fled to the relative safety of a neighboring town, joining the hundreds of thousands of displaced people in the country.
With very little formal education, Felix started school and once there became involved in Plan’s ‘Conflict Resolution for Adolescents’ program. Taking part in the recreational and artistic activities brought about a real change in Felix’s state of mind.
“I learned to control my anger and understand that justice can mean many different things,” he says. “Working on my school’s weekly radio show helped me to understand that there is a whole different world with new opportunities.”
Of all the project’s themes, the workshop on ethics and morals had the greatest impact on Felix and made him determined to devote his time to building a culture and understanding of peace and conflict resolution.
One particular event he helped design and organise has won him the respect of his school peers and the new community. Entitled Youth Expo, it attracted hundreds of young people concerned with violence in their communities to come and discuss the challenges they faced and how they might influence policy makers.
As a result many young people realized for the first time that they could play a real role in shaping the future development of their communities.
Felix is also active in the student’s union, the school’s weekly radio show and a giant mural project, which features messages of peace.
His next goal is to work towards a career in business. Long gone are the thoughts of joining the military and killing the men responsible for causing him so much pain as a 12 year-old.
“Without this project I would have remained locked in to a cycle of violence and injustice, unable to free myself from my feelings of anger and bitterness,” adds Felix.
Plan’s conflict resolution project is currently active in 55 schools in Colombia in eight regions along the Pacific and Atlantic coast of the country. Begun in 2002, it involves over 10,000 young people and their families in over 60 communities. It is helping young men and women to develop their communication, self-expression, negotiation and leadership skills, and with support from teachers and parents, to build a culture of peace.
Read more about violence against children and teenagers and what Plan is doing to help.
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