Luisa*, is 12 years old and one of over a million people that have fled to Colombia from neighbouring Venezuela, leaving because of lack of food, economic hardship and increasing violence.
“Everything I brought fit in my small bag. I took my clothes, my notebooks and a few books.”
“I came across the border with my dad, but he had to go and work in a place where he couldn’t take me, so he left me here with my mum,” Luisa says.
“I was sad leaving Venezuela, because I knew I would miss my relatives a lot. But I was also happy, because I was going to see my mum again. We had a big big big hug when I first saw her.”
Migrating to Colombia was a big change for Luisa. She didn’t know where anything was, the places were not familiar, people spoke strangely, using different words for things and she no longer had her friends and relatives close.
Girls that are migrants and refugees are especially vulnerable when families are on the move. The border area of Colombia, where Luisa lives, is home to several of the armed guerrilla groups that have fought the government and each other for decades. Organised crime, dealing in both narcotics and human trafficking, is well established and violence is common.
“At first, I didn’t go out much, but then I got used to it, people taught me where the stores and other things are.”
Luisa had to stop school when she moved, and she misses her friends at school and the park and mall she used to go to when she lived in Venezuela.
Today she attends Save the Children’s Child Friendly Space, where migrant children are given the opportunity to meet friends, play and learn. Children from Venezuela have the right to attend schools in Colombia by law, but since there are now so many refugees in the area, the schools have run out of places.
“I studied until sixth grade,” Luisa says. “I just missed two months at the end. My mom is looking for a space for me in a school here.”
“The best parts about living in Colombia is that I made friends here, I can be with my mum, we have a little house, and that I am with my new little sister.”
Luisa wants to be a flight attendant, travel and learn lots of languages. Sometimes, when people say that she can do it, she says:
Luisa wants to be a flight attendant, travel and learn lots of languages. Sometimes, when people are less optimistic and say that something isn’t possible, she says:
“The easy things? I already conquered them. The difficult things? They are already happening. The impossible? I haven’t done it yet, but I will.”
* Name has been changed.