Colombian kids receive mine risk education – funded by FABW

Find A Better Way, in partnership with Laureus and Spirit of Soccer, have funded a pilot mine risk education project in Columbia.

Colombia has one of the highest incidences of child casualties from landmines and explosive remnants of war (ERW) in the world. As a legacy of the country’s thirty-year conflict, many rural areas are polluted by landmines and improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Because insurgencies deliberately set out to terrorize local populations, explosive devices have been planted in schools, around water sources and even inside soccer balls and children’s toys.

Following the peace accord between the government and the FARC rebels signed in June of this year, humanitarian demining can finally begin in Colombia. Demining will be a long and expensive process, however, further complicated by many IEDs whose location has not been recorded on maps. Inevitably, it is the most vulnerable elements of the population (poor civilians and children) who will suffer the most.

The training is being implemented by FABW partner Spirit of Soccer. Children are taught how to recognize and avoid landmines and ERW in their community, and the correct procedures to follow if they find them. Local teachers, coaches and youth leaders are professionally trained to become ‘MRE/Soccer Coaches’ who teach the children football skills as they soak up the invaluable mine risk education. In its first six months of operation the pilot programme has reached over 3,000 children in Cauca and Meta departments, with plans to reach 3,000 more children from September

Explaining the importance of mine risk education, FABW CEO Lou McGrath said, ‘Sir Bobby Charlton founded Find A Better Way when he realized how long the demining process can take after a conflict. Speeding up the removal of landmines through improved technology is one of our key objectives, but while we work to improve that situation there are still people around the world having to live alongside landmines and ERW. Projects like the one Spirit of Soccer is running in Columbia are crucial for helping reduce the damage caused by landmines right now.’