One hundred young men and women, victims of violence perpetrated by illegal armed groups and at high risk for recruitment into these groups, are receiving support from IOM to learn new skills, create micro enterprises and move away from violence.
Some of the business opportunities offered to the participants include computer maintenance, Internet cafes, gymnasiums, domestic appliance stores, and food sales.
The young men and women live in Arauca, a region located in eastern Colombia that has suffered the effects of violence by illegal armed groups including forced displacement, confinement, anti-personnel mines, reduction in agricultural activity, and attacks on oil industry infrastructure.
This initiative, aimed at developing the skills and interests of at-risk youth while promoting their human rights, and preventing their involvement in violence, is part of an IOM project that receives support from the Italian Cooperation Programme and the International Committee for Community Development.
The project also provides support for family members including psychosocial assistance, microenterprise development training, and for minors the possibility to return to school or take up technical training.
With support from Colombia's Institute for Family Welfare (ICBF) and continued guidance from a team of psychologists, anthropologists, social workers and business administrators, as well as their families and the community, the participants say they have learnt to once again believe in the future.
One of the young beneficiaries said, "This is a great opportunity to offer young people in my neighbourhood the possibility of using the Internet to do their homework and research, and to communicate with friends. For those of us managing Internet cafes, we have the responsibility to grow the business so that we can have enough income to attend a technical course at the National Learning Institute."
According to José Ángel Oropeza, IOM Chief of Mission in Colombia, "It is very important to offer these youngsters from conflict areas a different way so they can move on in life and completely away from the conflict."
This Project is part of an IOM initiative, underway since 2001 that provides assistance to demobilized minors and those at risk of recruitment.