WAPA – War Affected People’s Association

The project

Art-therapy project for the reinsertion of former child soldiers

Since 2010, Corporación Proyectarte”, an NGO based in Medellin, has used art to create processes of personal and social transformation, as a contribution to the construction of peace and individual and collective human development.

Impact Location(s) : Colombia

WAPA financially supports the art therapy programmes KUAKUMUN (the art of rebirth) & ARTEUMA (Dream inventor) developed by its local partner “Proyectarte” in two reintegration centres (CAPRE) in Cali and Medellin. 60 young people – girls and boys between the ages of 14 and 18 – who are welcomed in CAPRE receive school and vocational training. But it doesn’t stop there.

Thanks to our partner, they now have the chance to complete their educational and professional career with a training aimed at personal and collective transformation processes.

More than just an art workshop…

These sessions of music, dance, visual arts, theatre, and embroidery, … are more than just a distraction in their schedule. They help develop both personal and social skills:

  • to get to know each other better,
  • to regain self-confidence, to discover talents and to explore new prospects for a future without carrying weapons;
  • to learn to control aggression, develop tolerance, patience and concentration;
  • to heal their wounds and to move on, to learn to build instead to break down; to work in a team, to respect differences, to get in touch with others without rivalry; 
  • to combat their embarrassment;
  • to become friends; …

These sessions are accompanied by outings and artistic events: presentation of artistic works to other young people, meetings with professional artists, visits of a museum… 

These exchanges are beneficial to them, make them feel proud of themselves and allow them to no longer feel and be seen as former child soldiers.

Key figures 

WAPA, it’s also : 

  • 3 determined women leading the organization  
  • 3 local partners (soon 4 !)
  • 6 years of existence
  • 4000 donors
  • 325.133 € collected (2019)

The organization carrying the project 

WAPA (War-Affected People’s Association) fights for the reintegration of former child soldiers and for the strengthening of communities in post-conflict countries or countries in transition to peace (Uganda, Sri Lanka, Colombia…). How? By working closely with local partners and financing the programs they run. In addition, WAPA conducts awareness campaigns on the issue of child soldiers and promotes their interests to end their recruitment (prevention, demobilization, reintegration).

To effectively reintegrate former child soldiers into their empowered communities, it is crucial to invest in sustainable, individual and tailored support.

The Belgian not-for-profit organisation WAPA, which is currently active in Uganda, Sri Lanka and Colombia (and soon in Congo), therefore supports projects through three main areas of actions :

  • Health and well-being
  • Quality education
  • Livelihood 

WAPA was founded in 2013 by Solveig Vinamont and Véronique Cranenbrouck, two young women in their thirties, friends, both passionate and determined. Marie Letor joined them in 2015 and is in charge of communication. 

The issue of child soldiers

Even today, more than 250,000 girls and boys under the age of 18 are still involved with an armed force or group. Their reintegration into families and communities is a complex, sometimes impossible process, tainted by lack of resources and the absence of a long-term vision.

In Colombia? 

Here in Colombia we don’t talk about civil war, but rather armed conflict. The Colombian conflict, in a country with a problematic topography of mountains and jungles, is infinitely complex. This conflict is particularly complex mostly beause of its duration, over 50 years, and its source of funding: narcotics trafficking and the large number of protagonists. Guerrillas from the FARC, EPL, ELN, M-19 (respectively: Marxists, Maoists, Guevarists and nationalists), indigenous guerrillas and those of African descent fight or have fought for reasons that mainly have an ideological basis. 

Virtually all of the armed groups have recruited children as soldiers, both in villages and in towns. Almost 18,000 have been recruited in total. With criminal gangs, we also see the notion of the criminalized child appearing (informants, drug dealers, or, even worse, sicarios -contract killers, etc.) who should also be treated as child soldiers. Their total number is unknown. Children “joined” armed groups for various reasons: difficult economic conditions, domestic violence, a lack of opportunities, a desire for revenge, threats and forcible recruitment. 
Among the roles are: domestic duties, messenger or informer, manufacturing, setting or detection of anti-personnel mines, guiding or security, sex slaves to military leaders and the recruitment of other children. Last of all they bear arms and are sent to the front where they carry out kidnappings. 
In Colombia, the average age of a child soldier is estimated at 13 and 30% of these children are girls. 1 child in 6 is Afro-Colombian or indigenous. 

Source: WAPA – Unicef

more info

PROJECT SUPPORTED SINCE 2019

Grants : 

  • 2019-20 : 5000€
  • 2020-21 : 5000€
  • 2021-22 : 6500€

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