For Maria (10) from Putamayo, Colombia , violence is never far away. Over the years, she has seen how the trafficking of people, drugs and weapons has divided her community and fueled armed conflict. Through our Peace Circus project, Maria is on a mission to reduce tensions and bring people closer together.
“There are many challenges in our community”, she says. “The roads are dangerous and access is terrible. Plus, we are near places where there’s a lot of violence.”
Countless families have been forced to up and move when illegal activities render their home unsafe. This has led to an atmosphere of fear within Maria’s community, as well as mounting tensions between groups.
Atmosphere of Fear
While Maria has not been directly targeted, she hears more and more stories from friends and family. Arturo (15) also lives in the Putumayo area. He recounts the day when his parents were caught up in a violent clash between armed men:
“The group were looking for a man. They wanted to kill him. My father refused to follow their instructions so they became angry. Later they came to our house and put a gun to my dad’s head.”
Recognising this volatile situation, War Child brought the Peace Circus to the heart of the region. This moving community circus travels from village to village offering children the opportunity to develop a unique artwork. From visual arts to acrobatics, theatre, music and dance, they eventually take their creations to the stage - alongside their very own ‘peace proposal’.
That’s where the peace part comes in. During the program - which also includes life skills and peace education modules - each child is tasked with selecting an obstacle towards achieving peace in their community. Next, they set out to develop a solution based on their learnings along the way.
With the support of her teachers, Maria quickly realized that the diversity of people in her community was at the root of the violence. Through a combination of education and creative expression, she was able to explore her own identity as well as important themes such as tolerance and respect.
“When I grow up I’d like to see a Colombia where we can all live together without fear.”
“I never knew that I had a talent for art”, she says. “But now I can draw, paint and dance.” With these newfound skillsets, she is determined to contribute to peacebuilding efforts in her society and remind people that our differences should be celebrated.
“When I grow up, I’d like to see a Colombia where we can all live together without fear”, she says. “A Colombia where all children can be happy, all families are united and we can all live in peace.”