Young Colombians from one of the most dangerous parts in southwestern Colombia have taken up cameras and microphones to promote a message of peace in an international reporting competition financed by Disney Latino.
Students aged 8 to 18 from Tumaco in the Nariño department on Colombia’s Pacific coast competed with students from Brazil, Mexico, and Argentina in a youth leadership initiative called “Transmit a message of peace,” supported by the NGO, Save the Children, and Disney Latino’s “Amigos por el Mundo.” Through radio, television, press, and internet, the participants have proposed peaceful solutions to the issue of violence in their communities.
The students “are taught how to do television, how to operate cameras and technical parts [and] write the scripts,” said Marcela Forero, Save the Children’s director of communication. “They are exposed to gang warfare, to death, to all kinds of public order problems. This project has brought them together and [it] teaches them and [now] many of them want to become involved in the field of communication.”
“They demonstrate leadership and take on the projects. They are happy because they are enabled and this makes them very special,” gushed the communication’s director.
More than 350 boys and girls from the Citadel and Iberia high schools have participated. The project started in August of 2011 and the prize will be announced on February 28.
According to the Disney Latino website, the contestants “will learn how to express their opinions and to disseminate them throughout the community by radio, television, newspapers, blogs and other digital media. Through this initiative, the young people of Tumaco will produce their own interviews, news, reports, documentaries…with a message of hope.”
Tumaco is Colombia’s second largest pacific port city. Due to its proximity to the ocean and to nearby coca leaf plantations, the city in ensnared in persistent territorial disputes between drug trafficking groups. Insight Crime reported on the high incidence of youth recruiting by such groups in Tumaco.
“Among the local boys, recruiters prefer the more serious and silent types, as well as the strongest, the poorest and those who have suffered the most, preferably between 12 and 14 years old. The younger they are, the more easily manipulated they are,” wrote Insight Crime. According to one Tumaco teacher, the gangs recruit two or three young people a week.