July 28, 2015

Children and Armed Conflict in Colombia

Chanel Marin , 2015 GHLI Fellow

Colombia has been immersed in an armed conflict for over 50 years. The underpinnings of the conflict have evolved over time, but its consequences have remained the same: mass displacement, violence, and death. The impact of exposure to violence on children in Colombia continues to grow as one of their biggest public health challenges.   

I am currently in Bogota, Colombia working as a GHLI fellow with Fundacion Saldarriaga Concha on a project to strengthen resiliency and peacebuilding in children under age five affected by the armed conflict. GHLI is working with the foundation to evaluate the impact of this intervention and my role is to develop, refine, and carry out focus groups and interviews with child caregivers, teachers, and government stakeholders. I work daily with a group of dedicated colleagues who bring me on field visits to witness how the intervention is being implemented.    

The visits were an incredible opportunity to meet the children impacted by the intervention. On one occasion I ate lunch with the children and assisted in their play and nap time. They were happy, energetic, and very curious about the new adult at the center. During the visit, I interviewed mothers regarding their experiences with conflict and their children’s behaviors. These brief interactions gave me a sense of how displacement has affected large portions of the population and how this impacts young children.

As my time in Colombia draws to a close, I am grateful to have worked with such a passionate team and to have learned how an intervention is implemented from the ground up. I have experienced the incredible kindness, warmth, and spiritedness of the Colombian culture and will take that with me home.