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Ex combatant aims to become a teacher

Francis Gonzales. Vista Hermosa, Meta, Colombia. Photo: NPA

Thinking about social reincorporation may bring different associations. On one hand, it is intrinsically attached to conflict, alienation, and social wounds. On the other hand, however, it opens up a door to new beginnings, reinvention and why not, hope.

Now, the association people decide to stick with (conflict or new beginnings) will be chosen according to the stories they know. This is why, it is important to meet the faces and stories behind actual and current social reincorporation processes.

Throughout this article, we will meet Francis Patricia Gonzales Martin, known as Nana, an ex FARC-EP combatant who joined the Humanitarian Demining field and since then, has created a new vision of what she would like to become.

Going back to civilian life

As part of the Peace Agreement reached by Colombian authorities and the Non-State Armed Group FARC-EP on 2016, Humanicemos-DH came out as an initiative to reincorporate ex combatants into civilian life by providing training and jobs in the Humanitarian Demining field. Nana joined Humanicemos in April 2018 and since then she has graduated from High School and started a career to become a teacher.

When asked about what the experience of becoming a deminer has brought to her life, Nana explains it as new horizons. Humanicemos

Francis Gonzales 8

Nana in action.

given her the opportunity to see the world with different eyes, in addition to interact with and be challenged by different points of view. This experience, as she explains, has motivated her to open up to new people and opinions, allowing her to gain a broader vision of what life is for a regular Colombian citizen.

Her favorite activity in mine action

In mine action, there are different tasks people can perform. Among them, we find: the non-technical survey, which consists in collecting information in order to know what areas could be contaminated; the technical survey, the process by which a team of experts intervene an area in order to determine the presence of mines or other explosive artifacts; demining, the actual task of removing landmines; and information management, which consists in capturing, processing and analyzing information in order to document demining operations.

Nana is excelling at her information management trainings, and although she is happy to learn about everything else, if she got to choose, she would focus on that.In order to perform information management, people need to be good with field tools, such as GPS, compass, and rangefinder. These allow them to collect information on the field, which will be imported into maps later on. This means that people also need to like office work in order to process that information using Google Earth, ArcGis, and Microsoft Office to create reports.

Nana has proven herself excellent in all of those tasks. Additionally, she has a big drive to be creative.For her, receiving information about new things equals learning, and she’s passionate about that.

“Thank you Humanicemos for allowing me to reach my dreams and build a new future.” That is what Nana says when telling her story.

After joining the Humanitarian Deminig field and following her eagerness to learn, she decided to go back to school and finish High-School, realizing this would continue to open doors for her. When in school, Nana found a new passion: teaching. This led her to pursue a new dream, the one of becoming a pre-school teacher in order to contribute in educating future generations with a new vision of a country in peace.

Francis Gonzales 2

Keeping focus is an important skill for every deminer.

Therefore, for Nana, Humanicemos has not only opened the door to work towards a mine-free country, but also to redefine her life, dreams and goals. Even though she says it gets really tiring to work and study, she is determined to finished what she proposed to herself and becoming an agent of change.

Stories like this one allows us to break with the stigma about people who were involved in the armed conflict. When thinking about the concept of social reincorporation we do not need to forget what happened. Yet, when getting to know the personal stories, you also begin to know people with hopes and dreams of building and being part of a better society and country.

16.05.2019 | Arianna Orozco