From guerrillas to raft guides. That’s the storyline behind Colombia’s Rafting for Peace program, where five former FARC-EP guerrillas and three members from the Miravalle community in San Vicente del Caguán, Colombia, were trained as rafting guides and are now running a productive project in the Pato River.
In a project spearheaded by the International Rafting Federation’s Rafael Gallo, who trained the former rebels in November 2018, the program has blossomed. No matter that the new guides took dead last when competing at the World Rafting Championships on Australia’s Tully River last May. They now have a new career using paddles instead of rifles, founding a tourism project that includes rafting tours along the Pato River. They’ve also formed a program with national selections for the next world Championships, with 20 teams from all over Colombia. In the Miravalle Territorial Area for Training and Reintegration (TATR), an emblematic region for the history of the armed conflict in Colombia, five FARC members in reintegration process and three members of the community founded the new rafting operation.
The project’s members received training from the Colombian National Training Service and the Costa Rican company “Ríos Tropicales.” The ex-combatants have been certified as rafting guides by the International Rafting Federation (IRF). The project is also supported by the Colombian Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Tourism, the Reintegration and Normalization Agency, ProColombia and the UN Verification Mission in Colombia.
The official “Rafting for Peace” project launched last spring. The event was attended by Andres Stapper, General Director of ARN, representatives of the Vice-Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Tourism, ProColombia representatives, FARC political party representatives, the entire Miravalle team and representatives of the UN Verification Mission in Colombia.