Colombia: I have good news for you, your son is safe and wrote you this letter

18-04-2012 Feature

Six young people aged between 13 and 17 were taken in by the Colombian Family Welfare Institute after being recruited by an armed group. The Institute asked the ICRC to try to contact the families of the young people who live in a remote rural area of the Pacific rain forest.

ICRC delegates interviewed the minors in Bogotá to ascertain where they were from. This was not an easy task since the minors had never gone beyond their district and its surrounding area. With the help of colourful drawings done by several of the children showing the details of houses, rivers, ravines, trees, farms and crops, the delegates were finally able to pinpoint where they were from, which happened to coincide with an area where the ICRC worked regularly. Since they all came from the same village, this speeded up the process greatly. The young people wrote letters to be delivered to their parents once the ICRC delegates had found them.

A delegate travelled to the district where their families were believed to live. In the course of his visits, one father of a missing youngster recounted how he had been looking for his son for months, to no avail: "I don't know where to begin. I have completely lost touch with my son. The war took him away from us. His mother and I were wondering if the Red Cross could help us."

The delegate asked him what his son was called and consulted the folder containing the information about the minors' cases. On one of the sheets of paper, he found the son's name. "I have two pieces of good news for you. The first is that your son is alive and well. The second is that I have here a letter that he wrote to you himself."

The father was speechless. He ran out of the house in search of his wife, the boy's mother. Then he handed the letter back to the delegate. "Please, could you read us the message?"

By candlelight, the delegate read aloud the words written by their son. Over the next two days, ICRC staff were able to locate another four families and to deliver the Red Cross messages addressed to them. Good news at last after so many months of uncertainty and suffering.




© El Colombiano