Wilfrido

Out of War

Prologue

Wilfrido was a young child growing up affected by the war without a mom or dad role model. He lived in the slums in a dangerous town. Thus, by 17, he realized he needed to make a change in the world and turned into a completely new person. Around this age, Wilfrido joined the UNICEF Children's Peace Movement and helped children affected by the war. To this day, he has aided children and never wants to return to the life he left behind.
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Who they are:

17 year old Wilfrido lives in a poor family and was already working on weekends at 9 years old, due to the fact that his father left when he was a child. ¨We have grown up surrounded by violence,¨ Wilfrido says. Children like him were affected every day most of them in need of help. Violence was everywhere and it was normal for a kid to be beaten.


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Where they are:

Wilfrido lives in a tiny house in Apartado, Northwest Colombia, a place where young girls around 11 and 12 are raped. ¨Armed groups are not far from my house,¨ Wilfrido says as he explains his poor neighborhood. He knows that there is a better home for him, somewhere, but he can't do anything about it for now.


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Events that have influenced his life:

Wilfrido only went to school to play or fight and never bothered to learn. Even though his future was not looking bright because he failed most of his classes, his boss, Edwin, created a change for him. ¨Edwin cared about how I was doing in school. He asked about my grades, encouraged me, and gave me good advice. It was because of Edwin that I became more responsible.¨ Wilfrido would have never found the right path if it weren't for Edwin. He showed Wilfrido that there was more to life than fighting. Edwin was like his adopted father. Edwin was a good male role model for Wilfrido. In 1994, when Wilfrido was 11, he thought he could lift heavy loads, such as cinder blocks, but he injured his back so badly that he couldn’t walk for two months. After treatment, he slowly recovered, but he isn’t the same and therefore can’t go into the army. Later, when hundreds of displaced families spewed into his town to get help, he went to a meeting where UNICEF trained the new young people in play therapy to help children affected by the war since he couldn't join the army. Because Wilfrido enjoyed being around kids so much, he went into a training course for the Return To Happiness program. He cares for children like Jacinta who have coped with the abandonment of her parents, poverty, and racism.


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What they are hoping to accomplish:

Wilfrido wants to help children who are badly hurt and affected by the war. He hopes to help them cope with their difficult lives because he was in a similar situation. ¨Every child we help, every volunteer we recruit, that is someone who can help us build a better community, a better country.” Wilfrido explains that he wants these kids to grow up with everything he went without. He wants Colombia to be a safe place for kids, teens and adults, and he believes that with the community's help, he can accomplish that.

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Have they ever been threatened?


Wilfrido has been threatened to be killed by the parents of the kids he was helping because he was making their parents look bad. ¨Fortunately, lots of Colombians make threats but don't carry them out.¨ Wilfrido clarifies. These parents don't understand how much they're hurting their children by beating them, overworking them, and treating them like pets.



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Why they continue to fight:

Wilfrido has changed from thinking to survive you need a weapon in your hands, but now he has learned that you just need to think positive. He wants all children to think like this, too. ¨First I changed because of the work, but then other people began to see me in a different way.¨ This why he continues to fight. Wilfrido will not stop until every child is at peace. He now believes that he is on the right path of his life and doesn't want to shift.


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Are there other options?

If he didn't work with the peacemakers, then his only other option would be sitting at home not getting anywhere with his life.¨The army could ask me why I didn't join them and it would be hard for me to find an answer they would accept.¨ When he hurt his back, he thought his life would turn for the worse, until he realized that he doesn't have to join the army to do something beneficial for his Colombian community.
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Epilogue

Wilfrido continues to fight and help children in Columbia. What seemed to be the most horrible tragedy, turned into a life lesson everyone should know. The children peace movement thas more than 100,000 active members. Wilfredo received a special recongnition from the womens commision for refugee wemon and children in 1999. He would love to be able to go to college but, are not able to because of lack of funds. His abition is to live and work in africa wih kids affected by war.
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