Children in southwestern Colombia whose family members are missing learn about human rights through art and play 

By Mariana Lersundy

Bogota, 30 March 2020: It was children’s play with a purpose. Guided by the Colombian non-governmental organization Association for the Integral Development of Victim, 40 children whose family members are missing used art and play to learn about a pre-colonial chieftain, human rights and disappearances. 

The project was supported by the International Commission on Missing Persons through its small grants program. In Colombia, ICMP has provided 20 civil society organizations with grants worth more than a total of 300,000 US dollars to facilitate the search, location and identification processes, and to support families with missing family members. 

For the children and youth taking part in the project in Pasto, southwestern Colombia, family life often revolves around the search for missing family members. The project brought them together to play, share experiences and learn. Organizers chose to focus the project on the local pre-colonial chieftain Capucigra, known for defending the local area from invading tribes. 

He left us the legacy of defending the rights of life, and for this reason we wanted to tell the children about his example – so that they can be the leaders of tomorrow and take over from us later on,” said project leader Rocio Granja. 

Following several days of preparations in November and December 2019, the children donned locally-made costumes they had decorated themselves and paradeat the Black and White Carnival, an important event held in January 2020. Theillustrated the history of Capucigra and honored the memory of the disappeared regional leaders while also highlighting the struggle families with disappeared members face today.  

The children were moved by the experience, which helped them understand how enforced disappearances affect many families and strengthened their resolve to continue the search conducted by their elders, Granja said.  

“They understood that when they steal a loved one from us and hide him or her, they also steal a part of us. Because with them goes our joy,” she said.   

On March 13 and 14, the project ended with an event held in Pasto during which the participating children discussed their experiences of the project.  

Photo credit: ICMP/Camilo Giraldo