When I first came home and told my parents I’d been selected to represent the University at One Young World in Colombia I was expecting a bit more of an excited response. Instead, I was bombarded with health and safety questions and statistics of British tourists being kidnapped! With the 'older' generation, the stereotypes surrounding Colombia are evident with memories of drug cartels, violence and political instability.
It wasn't until I sat my parents down and half forced them to watch the BBC documentary 'Simon Reeves in Colombia' and educated them on recent peace deals, that their views shifted and they became genuinely excited for my journey. P.s I really do recommend watching the documentary!
Without going into too much 'educational detail' for fear of sounding like a text book, I just want to give a quick overview on some of the history of Colombia and share the journey they have undertaken to become a symbol of peace and hope for years to come.
Many of you may have received your Colombian history lesson from watching the popular Netflix series ‘Narcos’, however as an overview Colombia has been through the following;
In the mid 1960’s A leftwing group called FARC started fighting the Columbian government for rights for the poor. To fund weapons for the war they were involved with drug trafficking which made them the money to finance the war. The civil war ended up lasting for 52 years, within this time an estimated 220,000 people were killed, 5 million civilians forced from their homes, and 8,000 minors disappeared. On the 23rd June 2016 FARC rebels and the government signed a ceasefire deal to end the conflict and peace was agreed.
The OYW opening ceremony is being held at the Simón Bolívar Plaza which is a very iconic place for the historic peace treaty. I believe that the steps the Columbian government took to end the conflict and achieve peace is inspirational and highlights an example of how stability can be maintained in the most unlikely places.
With only one week left before my flight to Columbia to attend OYW I am getting more excited each day to being surrounded by like-minded people and listening to some of the world’s most inspirational speakers.
Colombia’s journey although still early doors represent a beacon of hope for peace and this symbolism shows that social change is possible even in places where it may seem most unlikely. This echo’s OYW beliefs and values which highlight social progress internationally.
And so, the countdown continues…
Thanks for reading!