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Latino Daily News

Tuesday April 5, 2011

Walk a Mile in Their Shoe:  Inside Colombia’s Mine Awareness Day

Walk a Mile in Their Shoe:  Inside Colombia’s Mine Awareness Day

Photo: Juan Pablo Salazar and Esteban Awad from "Arcángeles"

Click Here to Enlarge Photo

HS-News brings you an inside look at Colombia’s Mine Awareness Day, from the perspectives of the creators of a series of truly inspiring campaigns, as well as Daniel Ávila, director of Colombia’s Presidential Program for Integral Action against Anti-Personal Land Mines.Image

April 4th was International Land Mine Awareness Day, whereby UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for “all international treaties prohibiting the use and stockpiling of landmines, and appealed for support for mine awareness and clearance efforts, which he said are necessary to create a safer world for all.”

Colombia is the second nation most affected by the use of these coward artifacts. HS-News had the great pleasure to talk to Juan Pablo Salazar and Esteban Awad, from the “Arcángeles” group in Bogotá as they glued halved shoes to the enigmatic Plaza de Bolívar, “9,133 half-shoes, each representing one of the 9,133 documented victims of land mines since 1990” to quote Salazar.

Image“The half-shoes are going to be glued to the Plaza de Bolivar in rows arranged by departments (Colombian states), in square formations similar to tomb stones on a cemetery, we expect to cover 80% of the plaza” described Awad.

Eight hundred and seventy of these half shoes, were children sized; the installation aimed to mirror the reality of the tragedy, every half high heel, each half combat boot, all halved tennis shoes tell a story of tragedy and sorrow, but because there are people who care, like the Arcángeles who believe “The issues of handicap can’t be treated any longer from the perspective of health, because people are not handicapped, it is society that is handicapped” all 9,133 half shoes also tell a story of hope.

The installation was part of a larger campaign called “Remángate” which is Spanish for rolling up sleeves, or pant legs, as the campaign invited people to do on April 4, 2011 before going about and through their day. “This symbolizes conscience. “ Said Salazar. “This symbolizes that we are aware that this happens in Colombia, and it hurts us” added Awad.

Salazar and Awad have been with the project since it’s inception, and even got to lend their skills for the video below, where celebrities of the Colombian Jet Set roll up their pant sleeves for the cause; Juan Pablo narrated, and Esteban played the music for it. 

Their idea got the support of Colombia’s Presidential Program for Integral Action against Anti-Personal Land Mines, as well as several NGO’s and the private enterprises who lent the walls of their buildings for the campaign’s giant ads. 

“We are currently working hand in hand with the National Ministry of Defense, to pass a series of decrees to allow civilian trained and expert organizations, to proceed with humanitarian mine de-activation” said Daniel Ávila Camacho director of Colombia’s Presidential Program for Integral Action against Anti-Personal Land Mines, when HS-News asked him “What is the government doing about the land mine situation” 

“In the realms of education and as well as prevention, the government is putting ahead programs and campaigns, working closely with local authorities to empower communities and vulnerable settlements and teach them how to identify, proceed and properly speak up when they are being victims of this terrible situation” he added.Image

We were also curious to know what is the government of Juan Manuel Santos doing for the victims of these heinous devices; we asked Daniel Ávila and he responded “We at the presidential program have a very clear mandate, which consists on providing support and orientation, and in coordination with other Governmental entities, work with these victims through an “attention route” set up by the government so victims of landmines learn about and take advantage of the programs, opportunities, humanitarian help and grants available to them.”

“In conjunction with the Vice-President of Colombia, we have launched a massive inter-departmental round table, looking to fine tune loose details and expedite services through the “attention route” sites.  We have also been doing groundbreaking work in the psycho-social and inclusion realms, so after having suffered a tragedy, these victims can get access to the tools they need to re-invent their life project, and can feel like an active part of society, this is key for us” Ávila said.