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Anderson and Kaiser

Anderson, 12, has always lived in the countryside. Kaiser is his dog and best friend. He has brown fur and a white chest.

“I took a liking to him when he was a puppy,” says Anderson. “He belonged to my aunt. I was so attached to him, I didn't want him to be taken away. My aunt said I could take him with me. I took him and have looked after him since”.


Anderson, Kaiser and the rest of their family were forced to flee to save their lives due to fighting between armed groups in their hometown.

“He doesn't like guns at all,” says Anderson when he notices Kaiser mistaking our camera for a weapon. “When he sees a gun, he starts barking. I don't even know why. Every time Kaiser sees a gun, he reacts violently. When armed people pass, he throws himself forward. It’s like weapons make him angry. I have to control him so he doesn’t get us into trouble.”

Anderson is energetic. He plays all day, both alone and with Kaiser. He really enjoys playing football and likes to travel around town on his motorbike with his niece while imitating bird sounds with his hands.

Before fleeing, Anderson and his family worked on a farm. “We lived in a house where it gets cold in the mornings,” Anderson explains. “It is beautiful. It has two floors and several bushes. The owner had chickens and next to it there was a cattle pen. We lived quietly in the house.”

 "When he sees a gun, he starts barking. I don't even know why. Every time Kaiser sees a gun, he reacts violently."

The family had a small ranch with crops of watermelon, melon, and lemon.

“I liked it when my father sowed, I helped him dig the holes, sometimes I put the seeds in, and he told me how much water to add or not. That is when I learned to sow. My dad was the one who taught me to sow," he says with pride.

Despite the idyllic backdrop, in Anderson's family, even the youngest knows about the dangers of bullets. "Clara is my niece. She has lived with us since she was a year old. She is very attached to my mom and dad. You tell her to call them grandparents and she says they are not her grandparents. According to her, they are her parents,” he says.


"And when the shots rang out, three-year-old Clara said: 'Mom, let's go, shots are being fired here."

Anderson, along with his mother, father, brother and niece fled on 15 October 2021. They weren’t the only ones. On that very same day, more than 450 people fled their homes in south-western Colombia as a result of armed fighting.

For days, he and his family stayed in a crowded temporary shelter. Some people there didn’t know if their loved ones were alive or dead. Anderson remembers everything being confusing. “In the shelter, nothing was known. Then news arrived that things had gotten worse at home and that the entire town had been displaced."

The media showed images of clashes between armed groups in the area. There were videos of men firing heavy machine guns from the tops of the mountains surrounding the villages. Videos of helicopter gunfire and bombs falling from planes.

The children in the shelter drew what they had seen and heard before leaving their homes.

"In the shelter, nothing was known. Then news arrived that things had gotten worse at home and that the entire town had been displaced."


After a short time, some people believed that the situation had de-escalated and returned home. A few days later, when the confrontations flared once again, they came back to the shelter. “There was a boy who couldn’t bring his mother because she was ill and did not want to go out,” remembers Anderson.

Anderson's days in the shelter were long and boring. In between meals, he spent his days taking part in recreational activities and playing with Kaiser.

“The wonderful thing about the time in the shelter was the way people took care of each other. They were kind,” he remembers. “When we met with the other children we sat down to talk. They told us that we had to go to get lunch and dinner. We would stand in line, they would give us lunch and we would wash the dishes.”

After spending several days in the shelter, Anderson and his family looked for a place to settle because they knew returning was not an option. Luckily, he says, "we touched a man's heart and he told us he could rent us this little house”.

"I like the countryside because you live peacefully".


The new house is near a small lake with fish. Anderson and Kaiser enjoy playing here. “I like the countryside because you live peacefully,” Anderson emphasises. “I would like to stay here. It is big and beautiful. I like being in the park, and I can ride my motorbike with my niece. I don't want to go back to where we were before”.

Forced recruitment by armed groups is always threatening young people living in rural parts of Colombia. Anderson is clear that he does not like violence and prefers the farming life. “You work peacefully, work with cattle, whatever comes with the countryside,” says Anderson.

Thanks to the generosity of the European Union, Anderson and his family received some food, mattresses and other items that improved their time at the shelter, as well as items for personal hygiene. They have also participated in educational and psycho-emotional activities that help make it easier for them to start over.

You can help children affected by the armed conflict in Colombia. Share and make this story visible.


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