Messenger of Peace
CAMILO PITU AYALA HERRERA
I was born in Colombia, in a tiny town, in the middle of the jungle. It was a strategic point for the military and for the FARC. One day we heard a shot. We knew that was the beginning of something. We didn't know how long it would take, how many people would die. I was just 5 years old and I didn't understand much. Someone knocked on the door of my house and asked my father: please, leave the town or they will kill us. My father packed basic stuff, clothes, a bit of food. He took me, looked into my eyes and said that everything will be ok.
We moved to the next town. It was the first time in my life I really felt discriminated. People think you are guilty, it is your fault what happened to you. I hated school. My favourite person was my uncle. He was the only one who tried to stay with me, without judging. He was 19. My parents were very busy working. One day I asked my uncle to come to school with me. He came.
And then... there was a school bell, very loud. We heard a shot. We knew it means... I got out of the classroom, worried about my uncle. He was at the door. I was running to him. There was a person behind him. He took a gun and he shot my uncle in front of my eyes... I... he was... everybody in my family, beside me, are tall. I tried to catch him but I couldn't, he was too tall.
He was in my arms and firstly he said a joke. He was that kind of person who finds something funny in every situation. And I tried... He kept talking, he said: life is too short to be sad and don't forget to smile. It's quite weird that a 19 years old person tells me that life is too short. In my 19th I was pretty scared. I didn't enjoy it at all.
Then, he said another bad joke and finally he started to... I don't know... to go. Have you ever heard that expression in the movies: I saw how life got out of his eyes? I felt something similar. But before he said: you were born for big things, never settle for less. And I think this is the difference between me and other people. I always look around for big things because I don't want to disappoint my uncle.
He died. We moved to the capital. Arriving in Bogota was interesting and disappointing at the same time. I'd never seen such high buildings, so many cars. But... we were living on the street. My mother was pregnant. I needed to look for food. I was taking it from the supermarket trash. Or, sometimes... I don't feel proud about it... I stole from the shop.
The worst was the way people look at you. In their eyes you can see that you have no future, you have no opportunities, you have nothing to do here. I remember once I was checking the trash bin and there was a person looking at me and I understood from his eyes that he saw only trash. He didn't see us. Just trash.
It was morning, when my brother was born. My mother put me in preschool, which was quite boring, as I knew already how to read and write. My mother taught me everything. Then, my parents divorced, my father went back to the town for his personal business, I don't know. My mother got to know another person, he put me in the military school. One of the teachers there was a scout. I thought scouting is like the army and at that time my biggest dream was to become a soldier and kill the people who killed my uncle. And stole my home. But he told me it's more interesting if you change people into good people rather than kill them.
Scouting changed my life. I got involved in helping others, changing the world and scouting gave me the resilience to not give up. I thought it would be interesting if I could create a better Camilo first. I came back to the town I was born in, then the one we escaped to. All the memories came back. After few days I was going to the station to take a bus and I saw him. I saw him in a store, drinking beer. The person who killed my uncle. He was scared when I introduced myself:
- Hi, I'm Camilo, maybe you don't remember me, but I was that young kid who was there when you killed this person 15 years ago.
He was scared, because revenges are pretty common in Colombia. I broke the circle of revenge. I said:
- I'm here to tell you two important things. First: I forgive you. Second: I really hope you can forgive yourself.
With forgiving I allowed my own life to go on. I started dramatic arts but then my university was closed. One of my biggest dreams is to win an Oscar. I decided to make my first movie. I called my friend who was studying film making and he joined. I wrote a script. We looked for funds. We made the movie with love, sending a good story to people. The message is this: forgiving is possible, peace is possible and creating a better world is possible.
Thanks to this movie a couple of dreams came true. One of them was to see the Eiffel Tower. I went there last year. I stood around 45 minutes in front of it. I said something like: I did, uncle. I did it. If someone who lived in the street can make himself better, visit the Eiffel Tower, tour around Europe, everything is possible.
My dream is to be the first generation in Colombia which lives in peace. We are a country created by wars. I work as a messenger of peace in scouting. Last week I received the Messenger of Peace award. It was one of the happiest moments of my life. Sometimes it's good when somebody recognizes your work. I understood that change starts with me. With my peace. Now I need to spread it around. I want Colombia to be an example for the world of how to build peace, how to keep going. We want to show the world we are more than narco-traffic and violence. Just give us a chance.