Juan usually take off his cap inside, where the sun can't burn
that point in his head where nothing protects his brain.
always wears a cap. He thinks it looks good, but there is also another
reason. The cap protects the soft spot on his head where the bullet
entered. There is no longer a bone there to protect his brain. Juan
is a member of the Children's Peace Movement.
- I am 16 and attend class 8. I live in the poorest area
on the slopes above Colombia's second largest town, Medellin. My town
is world famous because one of the world's worst criminals, Pablo Escobar
lived here. He made billions from manufacturing and smuggling cocaine
to Europe and the USA.He had several thousand people working for him,
but he was shot to death by police some years ago. In Medeliin many
think that Pablo Escobar was a good man because he built houses for
the poor. But I don't think he was so good. Many children ruin their
health with cocaine, or basuca, a kind of drug which one becomes completely
crazy by using.
Medellin we have much violence. In every block there is a gang who have
pistols and knives and keep track of who comes and goes. The gangs fight
often and shoot at each other.
Late at night ten years ago my mother took a taxi to to take me and
my little brother, who was then two, home. Some men drove by us on a
motorcycle and shot at us. I sat farthest forward in the taxi. Mamma
and Sinnig sat in the back seat. A bullet came in through the windshield
and into the back of my head, then continued through one of Sinnig's
eyes. It remains in his head. I don't remember anything. Everything
just went black.
- I woke up in the hospital. The bullet had made a hole in my skull
and part of my brain had run out. Everyone thought I was going to die.
The doctors said there was no chance for me, that it was meaningless
to try to save me. But there came a doctor who had another opinion.
He operated on me and managed to save my life. He put in new bone to
cover the hole in my skull.
Everybody says that it was a miracle that I survived! But it took a
long time before I could walk again. The men on the motorcycle were
chasing thieves who had escaped in a taxi. They thought it was our taxi.
This is why they shot at us. We have since moved from the area where
we then lived for it was very dangerous. Gangs shoot at each other nearly
it's ten years since I took the bullet in my skull, but I can't go bare-headed
in the sun as it burns me and I become sick. At one place I haven't
any bone in my skull. There, my skin lies directly against my brain.
That's why I always put on a cap to protect my head. Over time I have
acquired a very fine collection of caps!
- When I grow up I want to be a marine biologist or a photographer,
but not in Columbia, rather in Spain, Panama or Italy. I have an uncle
in Panama, perhaps I'll be able to live with him. Now I try to help
children in my block. We have a Children's Peace Movement here and we
have "hands for peace". Every hand represents one of the rights of the
child. We teach school children what it means. Many children at school
are disturbed by the violence they have seen in the area or because
their parents beat them. One friend at school had to run away when the
guerillas shot at their village. Another friend's father was murdered
during a robbery. Children suffer because of this. I like children a
lot and want to study child psychology.
- I feel safe when I am in the middle of my home block where I know
everybody. But I don't dare to go into other parts of the town. I am
afraid that I will be shot at if I go further away. I dream about a
town where one can play freely in the parks, without being afraid that
some will shoot of steal. I think the guerilla war is stupid. One doesn't
win anything by killing people. War doesn't give anything more than
death. People lose their lives, families are split up and children become
Read about the dangerous meeting
& Photo ©: ERLING SÖDERSTRÖM