"Freddie", a demobilized FARC combatant

"Freddie", a demobilized FARC combatant

VELA is only scratching the surface of a demobilzed population that currently numbers approximately 40,000. The intricacies of the reintegration process, as led by the Colombian Reintegration Agency (ACR), involves helping ex-combatants cope with psychological traumas, lack of education and skills for finding their place in the country's economy. With so many invested in the business of war, it is important to provide economical alternatives and opportunities for this population to prevent them from falling back into the ranks of illegal groups — as some have already done.

The personal stories and faces that make up this project — half of which could not have been possible without the invaluable support of ACR — are all part of a larger body of work currently undertaken by VELA to help foster alternative perspectives of the country's conflict.

The story of Colombia's conflict is overwhelmed by generalizations perpetuated by the same story cycle, the same language, and the same basic snapshot into what is an increasingly complex situation that has affected the lives of many Colombians for more than 50 years. As a step towards true peace and reconciliation the country and its people need to see beyond the overused labels of "guerrilla" or "paramilitary" to understand the reality of many Colombians.

For the demobilized combatants, whether they be guerrillas or paramilitaries, the road to reintegration is made harder by the instilled negative perspectives that Colombia’s society has of them and their past. The conflict is seldom humanized, and the stories of how and why these combatants came to be part of an 'illegal' group are rarely heard or explored.