Colombian Landmine Victim Works to Protect Others


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Irma was 11 when her life changed forever. “I was out gathering wood near my parents’ home in Zaragoza, Colombia, when I stepped on something unusual,” said Irma, now 25. “Suddenly, there was an explosion which sent up a big dust cloud. I remember lying on the ground and screaming that I didn’t want to die.”

Irma had stepped on a landmine—one of countless such devices planted in Colombia over the course of 50 years of conflict between the government, armed opposition groups, drug traffickers, and other criminal elements. Irma survived the accident but she would need specific, lifelong care for her mutilated left leg. During her treatment she was referred to Handicap International, which has helping Colombian landmine survivors since 1998. The organization has been working with Irma ever since.

Our local team in Colombia ensures Irma receives physical therapy and transportation between her home and her the rehabilitation center. Thanks to her prosthetic leg, Irma can manage most activities, including caring for her young daughter, Maria Angel. Irma still struggles with memories of her accident and the stress of being single mother with a disability. Maria Angel’s father left Monica when she was two months pregnant.

To help manage her stress, Monica, a Handicap International mental health advisor, provides Irma with regular counseling. “Sometimes I panic, when I don’t have money for food or diapers for Maria Angel, for instance,” said Irma. “Fortunately, Monica can calm me down with her good advice.”

When Irma stepped on a landmine years ago, she hardly knew anything about the dangers posed by these weapons. Today, her greatest fear is that what happened to her could happen to others—even Maria Angel. To protect others from the suffering she experienced, she regularly visits the homes of people in her community to educate them about landmines and how to reduce the risk of accidents.

“By helping others stay safe, something good has come from my loss. I’m proud to do this work. When Maria Angel is old enough, I will tell her everything about landmines. I will give her all the educational material I have available here.”


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