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Being a migrant in the middle of the conflict

Amely, 9, is originally from Venezuela. She likes studying very much. "Studying is a gift that fell from heaven," she says. After being forced to miss several years of school while migrating with her family, Amely was desperate not to miss another moment of learning. 

She proudly explains the fruit of her efforts: “I passed the school year, and I was happy. I ranked first among the students! Another six-year-old boy came second because he already knew how to read. I felt like a champion. I felt a lot of happiness and the teacher was happy for me.”

Amely’s grandmother, Mayra, happily boasts about the girl's efforts. “She would come home and do her homework,” says Mayra. “The girls cried every time they weren't studying. 'I want to study; I want to learn' they said.”

Amely is living with Mayra and her cousin in a temporary shelter. Their home is  a white and blue tent. Inside, there is a black blanket decorated with dog footprints and some stuffed animals.

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Mayra, Amely and her little cousin left Venezuela several years ago. "We had to leave our country because of the economic situation, everything became too expensive," recalls Mayra.

They left Venezuela on foot and traveled through Peru and Ecuador looking for a better life. Then, they settled in Colombia and stayed in the capital, Bogotá, for a few months, but decided to go to the south-west of the country with the promise of a job for Mayra and a place at school for the girls.

Unfortunately, at the end of their journey they came face-to-face with war. In the town where they arrived, there were clashes between various armed groups. The family was forced to flee. They had to pack their bags and get back on the road in search of a safe place to live.

The family arrived at a temporary shelter in a nearby village. The shelter provided refuge to around 550 people when the fighting reached its critical point. Amely remembers in detail the confrontations that displaced them.

"I only thought of

my grandmother

because she is very afraid of those shots. I took my things, my suitcase, my bag, I took everything  and I ran away.”

That day, Amely was doing homework when the shooting started between armed groups firing from the peaks of the majestic mountains that adorn the landscape. “I only thought about my grandmother because she is very afraid of those shots. I took my things, my suitcase, my bag, I took everything and ran away,” remembers Amely.

As migrants, being displaced again by the Colombian conflict has been a big shock. “I feel naive,” says Mayra. “I don't know anything about this issue. Why do they fight? Who are they? No, for real, when I saw the fighting, the first thing I did was grab my girls and flee,”

According to Mayra, the havoc caused by the conflict is constantly felt. “The shots sound like bursts. They throw things that sound very hard. They are prepared with gas cylinders that they use as bombs. It feels like the earth is shaking.”

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"I am drawing a happy family, with flowers, butterflies, and happy clouds. Since I really like to draw, that's why I draw this and then I draw my little house in Venezuela."

Despite everything she has lived through, Amely preserves the innocence of her childhood. She likes to tell stories through her drawings. “I am drawing a happy family, with flowers, butterflies and happy clouds,” says Amely. “I really like to draw. Next, I will draw my little house in Venezuela.”

For Mayra and Amely, the journey in search of a stable place to live continues. "We may go to Bogotá to study and to be with my brother, who is there too," says Amely.

However, Mayra is struggling with the idea of being forced to move again. “If I manage to get a little house here and a place in school for the girls, I think I'll stay here,” she says.

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Thanks to the generosity of the European Union, Amely and her community now have access to improved toilets and showers, healthy food, and other items to improve their stay at the shelter, such as blankets and toiletries. The children have also received school supplies to help them continue learning, and participate in activities that aim to  prevent accidents with land mines. Adults learn about their rights as victims of the conflict.

You can continue helping people like Amely and her family affected by the armed conflict in Colombia. Share and make this story visible.

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year

after…

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Amely, now 10 years old. A year has passed since they had to flee because of the Colombian armed conflict. They decided not to return to the village and to stay in the city.

They stayed in the shelter for three months because they had nowhere else to go. One day a relative, also a migrant, took them in, while they managed to rent a room.

They're still together, "we don't have luxury, but we're fine,"

Mayra admits. 

Mayra found a job as a housekeeper. Her priority was to get Amely back to school, to get her uniform and supplies. "It's not easy, you have to do everything yourself," Mayra says.

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Reconstructing his life for the third time

"The first day at school, my classmates treated me very well and the teacher welcomed me. Now I am the third best student in my class," said Amely, proud to be back in school, "Math is my favorite subject, and art too.

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"I remember when I was 5 years old, we walked to the Colombian border. I was sick and didn't want to walk. But after all that and the displacement, I feel good here," says Amely, who, along with her grandmother, still has no plans to return to Venezuela: "I like the school here," says Amely. 

However, because they are from another country, they are not recognized as victims of the Colombian conflict: "Those displaced by the armed conflict receive economic aid from the state. Once I asked and they told me that the aid for victims is only for Colombians," explains Mayra, who mentions that this does not prevent her from feeling great gratitude to the country that welcomes her and allows her to see her granddaughter grow up.

Amely dreams of being a dancer or an actress, "In carnival I was in the dance troupe, I disguised myself and I loved to dance," she says, noting that she still has the same white teddy bear that has traveled with her since she arrived in Colombia five years ago, it was with her during the displacement and now it is in her new home.

Every day they wake up early, Amely goes to school and Mayra goes to work. "My biggest dream is for both of us to move forward together," says Mayra.

Consorcio MIRE's humanitarian assistance helps families like Mayra's and Amely's in their most acute moments of need, so they can recover and start a new life.

 


 

 

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