Jhoana, 20 years old, and her family had to flee after a massacre in her village. Two of her brothers and her two cousins where killed. All male youth.
Jhoana grew up in a small village along the river in the region of Chocó, Colombia. She loved playing with her siblings and cousins, walking in the bush and went swimming. Her dream was to study veterinarian because her passion for animals. Her dream got tossed when the community repetitively was threatened and they eventually had to flee.
It was an ordinary day in March 2017 when Jhoana and other women were celebrating women’s day. The remaining village, mostly males, continued their normal activities when all of a sudden an armed group attacked. That night Jhoana couldn’t sleep due to nightmares and not knowing the extent of the massacre and not being able to go back to the village before the next day.
The next day they witnessed several dead and wounded youths and she was devastated. Not one, but two of her elderly brothers had lost their lives. One where tied up and the other one was laying dead on a rooftop with rain poring down on the body. Furthermore, two cousins and a family friend, all young, and all males also lost their life’s.
Today, the village is abandon and appears more like a ghost town. Jhoana and her family are now too afraid to return to their village because of the uncertainty that follows and if another massacre will happen again.
Now, her daily activities are restricted to short trips; when she leaves the house, she does not go far and she coordinates her trips with relatives. A common daily activity can consist of meeting her cousins at the pier and watch them swim. Or, she will only hang out in their house. At home, where she spends most of her time, she writes her diary to cope with the massacre and the loss of her two older brothers. She also does her homework in secondary school, or, she helps her mom with cooking and takes care of her 12-year-old niece, Yurani, that lost her dad in the massacre. She now feels that she has to support her family because her parents are old and the two oldest brothers are gone.
She continuously strives to stay positive and cope with the massacre. “With the heart broken I have to be brave. Forget bad things and bring positive things. Even with this pain, I want to get ahead. I have to fight for positive things to happen”.
Hopes for the future
The only way she can fulfil her dream and help her family is to leave the village and continue studying, but there is no money to study for. “I now have a 12-year old niece and I would like to be a good example for her. My nieces father was killed in the massacre and her mother died due to illness prior. Thus, if I go on to study and build my life I will then get a good job and she will hopefully acquire strength to achieve the same”.
Jhoana is hoping for peace in Colombia, but she is not sure if that will happen. She has realized that there is no future in the village she is displaced and the road is unfortunately short for youth to armed groups and drugs. Thus, she believes the path lies in education and underline the importance to reach a common agreement in peace in order to progress the country.
Message to youth
“If you want something you can achieve it, therefore you should proceed it”. “Even if someone hurts you, you have to be strong and get ahead”. She continues, “while you are alive you have to be brave, even if you smile outside and cry inside we should proceed with our dreams”.
“Don’t believe in negative things, don’t fall into bad vicious, be ambitious in a positive matter, and fight for the future and don’t be defeated”.
Photo: Beate Simarud/NRC