Drawing a Brighter Future for the Demobilized Colombian Youth
By Adam Kane
In 2016, a series of four comic books was completed: after “Nosotros” I & II (Us), “Soñando el Futuro” (Dreaming the Future) and “De Regreso a la Vida” (Back to Life) were published. Called “Pintando el Futuro”, this project was implemented by UNITAR in partnership with the Foundation Ciudad Don Bosco in Medellín and with the support of the Institute of the German Foreign Office. The project that started in 2014 aimed to both contribute to the peacebuilding process in Colombia and help youth victims of armed conflict to restore their individual, familial, and social dimension.
“We spent one week in Medellín and did activities with the children staying at CAPRE, the Centre for Demobilized Youth.” Explains Viviana Mojica Aurelio, who works for the Peacekeeping Training Programme at UNITAR and who oversees the Pintando el Futuro project. “The recruitment of children is an ongoing phenomenon in Colombia and many are still under aged as they start their demobilization process with Ciudad Don Bosco. For this project, UNITAR wanted to work with someone from Colombia to design and create the two comic books and we chose Juan Sebastián López”, says Viviana.
Working as an independent graphic designer and illustrator in Medellín under the name of Morphart, Juan Sebastián López Fernández spent the whole week with the UNITAR staff and the former child soldiers.
“The idea was that I do activities with the kids, so I could see the details of their faces, the way they look and most of all know their stories and their past as former members of armed groups. We created a script for the comic books together, as a team.”
Once the scripts were ready, he started drawing, mixing some the children’s features into each character.
“For me, it was not just a drawing session, it was a human experience. It was the first time for me that a professional mandate gave so much on a personal level. It was amazing, but also very impressive and hard to work with these children, because violence is a reality for them. I live in the same city, but there are things we do not know about. Fortunately, war has been far away from my family and me. But these kids have been in a war. The worst of all is that they are 13 or 14 years old today and have had a weapon in their hands since they were 9 years old.”
Juan Sebastián López is convinced that creating the comic books helped the children.
“You should have seen their faces once they had the comic book in their hands! Those smiles, they were priceless! ”
The two comic books Juan Sebastián designed tell the story about what happens to the characters after the armed group, the challenges they have to face and the importance of the support from their family and from institutions like CAPRE. “I believe these books do not specifically serve as prevention, but they show a very positive message: there is a life after war. And in this moment for the country, this is probably a stronger speech. Sadly, the armed groups have been a way of life for many years, because there are so many problems in Colombia. Through these books, we can show that when you come out of the armed groups, there is a happy life that awaits you”, says Juan Sebastián.
Each printed in 20’000 copies, “Soñando el Futuro” and “De Regreso a la Vida” are used as teaching tools in the Ciudad Don Bosco centres and schools, in the West and North of Colombia. They are also distributed at the UNICEF. In 2016, UNITAR also edited a “Caja de Herramientos” (toolbox), a booklet for teachers with keys on how to run activities to promote peace in Colombia.