By Alicia Liliana Méndez, EL TIEMPO, August 29, 2023
(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)
The humanitarian organization The Halo Trust has announced that the rural school in the town (vereda) of Mesones, in Argelia de María, Antioquia Department, resumed classes on July 10 of this year.
The school had been closed for more than ten years because of the armed conflict and because the installation of land mines blocked the roads for coming and going in the town.
In its announcement, the organization stated that, beginning in 2021, “the land mines contained in four minefields in Mesones have been destroyed, and that has allowed the boys, girls, and teenagers to study and go to school safely.”
On August 9, Halo declared two areas in the town to be free of suspected land mines, and turned the spaces over to the community for the people to use.
That allowed the official re-opening of the school, and one of the teachers—who comes from Chocó—could begin holding classes because “the risk of deaths and accidents caused by the abandoned explosives that were located in the areas and nearby trails has been eliminated.” She stated that more than 30 children were attending the school before it had to be closed.
The woman who led the demining
“The conflict made them abandon their town to avoid being killed in the combat, or because a field of land mines had been installed 500 meters from there. Halo found it and destroyed 50 land mines on a trail from a little more than two hectares of land beginning in November of 2021,” reported the humanitarian aid organization.
Halo emphasized that most of the work had been done under the leadership of Yuleidy Ocampo, the supervisor of demining.
Yuleidy, 26 years old, led a team of five women and men, deminers, who found the artifacts in the mine fields under her leadership.
She destroyed the mines that her team found one by one, as that task can only be carried out by people who, like her, have been trained to do it.
“When you confront a job like this one, it’s normal to feel scared, but having destroyed all these mines gives me a feeling of satisfaction, because every mine that’s destroyed means lives of humans and animals have been saved,” asserted Yuleidy.
In the town of Mesones they have destroyed another 23 land mines. In total, 73 explosive artifacts were destroyed in the four minefields that measure more than 34,000 square meters, saving at least one life for every one of them.
Now, according to the organization, this area can be cultivated, and more families can return after having been displaced between 2000 and 2004. That opens a pathway for 74 applications for land restitution and for rebuilding the basic infrastructure that was destroyed during the conflict, or for building new infrastructure for the new generation that had to leave everything behind, as well as for those who might have moved in recently.