NPR discusses second chances for child soldiers

Colombia, May 30, 2013

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  • Former child soldiers learn how to cope with the trauma and develop skills to succeed in life during the Mercy Corps-supported reintegration process. Photo: Miguel Samper for Mercy Corps

The government of Colombia and the notorious FARC rebel group have been in peace talks for the past six months to end decades of conflict. But as some progress is made at the negotiations in Havana, children and youth in Colombia are still falling victim to recruitment by the guerillas.

Exact numbers are unknown, but it’s estimated that there are now as many as 16,000 child soldiers in Colombia and that a quarter of all combatants in illegal armed groups in the country are under the age of 18.

"Although the FARC is now engaged in a peace process with the Colombian government, there are trends that indicate that there is an increase in recruitment, especially in the rural areas of Colombia where government institutions don't have as much reach or influence," our Country Director Provash Budden told NPR this week.

We’re reaching out to vulnerable youth, working to both prevent recruitment and rehabilitate former child combatants. For those that have already experienced a life of violence and were rescued by the government or escaped, we provide a safe environment for them to live and process their experiences, overcome trauma and learn how to function again in society.

LEARN MORE: Listen to the segment on NPR's Morning Edition ▸