Colombia: Recipe for a New Life
Henry was recruited by an illegal armed group when he was a just a
boy. Today, he is a chef at a well known restaurant in
Bogotá and is looking forward to a successful life.
"In the past I never studied. I had no stability in my life, I
had nothing. I did not know what life had in store for me, all I
could expect was finding any old job. But now, I have a
career and I know what I want I want out of life," explains Henry
Castro*, a young man of 24, who belonged to an illegal armed group
from the age of 13 to 18.
Henry does not speak much about the part of his life when he
wielded a gun and, although not denying this episode in his life,
he now considers it as part of his former life. He is enjoying life
to the full, and his only concern is about living happily together
with his family.
A year after demobilizing from the armed group, Henry heard that
the Fundación Escuela Taller de Bogotá (FETB by its
Spanish acronym) was offering training in traditional trades such
as carpentry, cooking, handicraft, tourism and construction to
young adults between the ages of 18 and 25 living in vulnerable
Wanting to leave behind his life of grief, instability and
insecurity, Henry turned to the FETB programme, which is funded by
the United States Agency for International Development (USAID),
through IOM which provides equipment and support for the
implementation of the workshops. The aim of the FETB is to ensure
training for 90 demobilized young persons, or for those at risk of
being recruited. That is where Henry found the chance to study and
to find a career that he enjoys; since he was a small boy his
parents taught him to cook.
During his two years of training in food preparation, Henry
studied during the day and worked at night at an exclusive
restaurant in Bogota. In 2007 he graduated as part of the first
cooking workshop and continued working in the restaurant, where
today he is the Head Chef.
Now Henry is a recognized chef in the city and he has been
featured twice on the "El Reto Gourmet", part of the TV programme
Día a Día broadcast by Caracol Television.
Henry says, "After working so hard, life is now bearing
fruit." And it's no wonder, as he is now a famous chef and a
teacher at the FETB, where, twice a week he teaches a class titled
"Food of the World". Inspired by his new philosophy of life
of giving his best to others, he relishes this new challenge of
sharing with other young people what he knows and loves to do.
Emotionally, this wonderful chef, whose speciality is Spanish
and Mediterranean dishes, receives unconditional support from his
wife. They have a seven-month-old baby, and his greatest
inspiration is working every day for his family.
"My life has changed so much. I am now providing stability to my
family, I feel calm, I am doing what I love, and I am seeing the
results of my hard work," says Henry.
This professional now has a promising life that allows him to
continue studying and to gain international recognition.
*His name has been changed to protect his identity and his
process of reintegration.