Reformed child soldiers Lorena (left in photo) and Edwin (right in photo) share their stories.
As a youngster – at an age when many girls are enjoying time on the playground or dressing up their dolls – Lorena was toting a deadly weapon. She was one of thousands of child soldiers coerced into violence and war alongside Colombian guerrillas and paramilitaries.
She could have likely died in battle, if not for a life-saving Salesian program that rescues child soldiers and puts them back on the right track.
Now Lorena is sharing her experiences to inspire other at-risk youth. Alongside another former child soldier named Edwin, Lorena has been traveling to schools throughout Europe, raising awareness about the effectiveness of the Salesian program and encouraging young people to make a positive difference.
"Just as I experienced the horrors of war I now want to be a symbol of peace," she told one class. "Peace is built by bringing something new to society, so by studying for a university qualification, I am not only developing my own personal potential, but also a mature commitment to rebuilding peace. It is my hope that many young people freed from the war will be able to pursue university studies and also change my country."
Edwin, who is also enrolled in higher studies, explains to young students that he aspires to be a good teacher of children who were once soldiers. He expresses that "the most important thing in life is to give the best that is to be found in every human being, and I want to help all the other young people who get away from the war to have a better future and to commit themselves to children's rights."
The personal stories shared by Lorena and Edwin are a wonderful testament to the success of the Salesian program for child soldiers and how it has saved many young lives.