Global Newsletter – January 2012 (Ecuador) – At the RET, we are convinced of the importance of education as a powerful tool of building peace and social inclusion. We believe that promoting education that rejects prejudice, intolerance and stereotypes with regard to ‘the other(s)’, is one of the best strategies to prevent social division, intolerance, discrimination, racism and outbreaks of violence resulting in armed conflicts which claim hundreds of lives every day.
In RET Ecuador, we work not only to ensure access to education of hundreds of youth who come across the border to escape the armed conflict in the neighbouring country of Colombia. We also accompany them by providing psychosocial care to overcome the traumas of the cycle of violence from which they were victims before their displacement. We help transform their pain and fear into hope and opportunities to become agents of peace and development in the Ecuadorian society.
Through the RET Ecuador’s Life Skills programmes and the development of youth initiatives, adolescents and young people enhance their skills and abilities, creating groups and networks to prevent youth violence with and within the host community. Due to the conflict in their home country and forced displacement, most of the families of the youth the RET works with suffer from poverty and marginalisation: they have lost their homes, crops, livestocks and goods. In its integral response, the RET Ecuador supports these families to develop small income-generating initiatives that enable them to overcome their marginalisation and become positive agents of development of their host society. Convinced that the only path to peace is the creation of equal opportunities, the RET’s interventions are directed not only to the refugee population, but also to the growing number of locally displaced who are in conditions of high vulnerability.
One of the young beneficiaries of the RET’s programmes in Ecuador highlighted, in a speech he held in Lagro Agrio in the framework of a travelling photo exhibition called “Views of the Northern Border”, how the RET’s work is contributing to peaceful cohabitation and the reduction of violence:
“I first want to thank God and then the RET for inviting me to be part of its youth group in Lago Agrio. Thanks to the youth group, I managed to make new friends and our dialogue and exchange has brought me peace and tranquility. As member of the youth group, I could live very special moments, like when I learned that I was selected to participate in a photography workshop. This workshop has helped me a lot: now I can say I have one more tool in my life. I know how to take a good photo, how to show the beautiful things of Sucumbíos province, its natural beauty, friendly people and cuisine. I can also show through my photos that our province is not an area of ??problems or conflicts as they say. I therefore invite you all to help us educate young people, because a studying young man (or woman) is a young man who brings peace and tranquility. He will always be busy whereas a young man who does not study is likely to create problems and conflicts. On behalf of my colleagues, I ask you not to forget us.”