Return to Happiness


Wilfrido fights for peace. He lives in a barrio (neighborhood) with his mother. His father left when he was nine because his father and mother fought a lot. There is an armed group that gathers nearby which leads to fear of not wanting to be out too late at night. If you are out at all you might get shot by sicarios (assassins) who often ride through the barrio on their motorbikes. Wilfrido was a child laborer even while he attended school. He was Afro-Colombian which means he was prime recruitment for armed groups. When he was ten he almost joined up but his boss Edwin recommended he decline signing up and Wilfrido agreed after seeing the facts that so many young people died. He started working with the Return to Happiness organization in 1996 and worked as a play therapist on the weekends.


Wilfrido lives in a barrio or neighborhood in Apartado, Colombia. Apartado is an urban area, which means it has the potential for gang wars and street violence. There is an armed group that gathers near Wilfrido's house which is proof of how dangerous it can be. The environment feels tense as there are sicarios about who could shoot you if they think you are a threat to their cause.


There could be a tense feeling among the people living in Wilfrido's barrio as if they are out on the street at the wrong time they could be killed by sicarios or the residents could be pressed into service by armed groups desperate for recruits. There is a peaceful side though. Later years brought displaced families that can be cheered up by Wilfrido and his eighty volunteers who work with displaced children with trauma. They use play therapy to cheer them up.

A Reason to Fight!

Wilfrido first heard about helping people that had been hurt by the war when UNICEF came to Apartado and wanted volunteers. But he wasn't interested how they wanted him to help people. The next time UNICEF came to Apartado they brought two thousand young people to the city stadium and asked for volunteers to work with displaced children who were suffering from the trauma of losing their homes. They were asked to use play therapy to cheer up the children and make them forget what they had suffered and help them have fun. This is why and when Wilfrido started to help fight for peace after hearing the words of Nidya Quiroz in that stadium.

What He has Done.

Wilfrido started working with the Return to Happiness organization and after a few years he was leading eighty volunteers. Wilfrido and his volunteers operated workshops in and around Apartado. The volunteers used play therapy to work with displaced children by cheering them up and playing games with them such as La Pulga (The Flea). There would also be arts & crafts where the children would be free to express themselves in any way they wanted to. But it was sad to see what they were creating. One boy painted a black heart because he had seen his father tortured right in front of him and then butchered via machete and then the remains were thrown into a river. One child who holds a special place in Wilfrido's heart is Jacinta who was abandoned by her parents just because she had darker skin than they do and she was forced to live with her grandmother. When an earthquake shook the coffee belt in Colombia, Return to Happiness sent thirty volunteers to the city of Pereira to help with the chlidren traumatized by the earthquake. There, Wilfrido met David, a boy who had been traumatized by the earthquake and who had hurt a girl's feelings when he scorned her in public. In the three weeks that Wilfrido was there he spent all his free time with David and when he left he said he would deeply miss David.

Hopes and Dreams

Wilfrido is hoping for an end of the fighting that has wracked Colombia for decades and then rebuild the country as one that is free of tyranny and corruption. Wilfrido is fighting for peace along with a lot of other kids across the Colombian nation. There is so much that needs to be done to fix this country and if this is the goal of the future generations of Colombians there will be a brighter future to look forward to. Everything that the children have done is regarded as part the the Children's Movement for Peace and they have been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize three times for their efforts. This is his dream.