Record-breaking adventurer and broadcaster Mark Beaumont is taking on the Artemis Great Kindrochit Quadrathlon at Loch Tay, Perthshire on Saturday on July 14, 2012. He is joining 260 Quadrathletes on Scotland’s toughest single-day endurance event to help raise awareness and funds for Mercy Corps’ work rehabilitating child soldiers.
“I saw the devastating impact that poverty, drugs and political conflict is having on children in countries like Columbia first hand on my cycle thought the Americas,” commented Beaumont. “Now it is time to give something back for all the friendship and hospitality I encountered on this journey.” This year’s Artemis Quadrathlon is expected to raise a £200,000 pounds for the development charity Mercy Corps’ work rehabilitating child soldiers in Columbia.
Billed as the UK’s toughest one-day event the Quad is a swim, hike/run, paddle and pedal through and around the stunning Loch Tay and over the Ben Lawers mountain range in the Scottish Highlands. Now in its 12th year the Quadrathlon has helped raise £3.9 million for Mercy Corps’ work to bring hope to 14.5 million people in the world’s poorest countries. The event also supports work by Mary’s Meals to provide meals in schools in Malawi and other countries.
Mark’s team-mate for this endurance challenge will be Brian Atkinson, Mercy Corps’ team member from Columbia. Brian is travelling over to Scotland to take part in the event together with Columbian child soldier programme co-ordinator Maria Fernanda Cruz. “Most child soldiers have seen and done things we can’t even imagine,” commented Maria. “They feel regret and want forgiveness.”
Colombia’s deadly, cocaine-fueled conflict has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives. There are as many as 16,000 child soldiers in Colombia and a quarter of all combatants in armed groups like the FARC are under 18 years old. Children often start service as couriers, informants and transporters of food and ammunition before moving up in the ranks, taking up arms and serving as cannon fodder on the front lines, planting landmines, and making explosives because of their small hands.
Girl soldiers are often subjected to physical and sexual abuse and boys are forced to become murderers. The only way out of the cycle of violence is to run away. To avoid retribution ex-child soldiers can never return home, and many are left traumatised by their experiences and terrified that their captors will catch up with them.
Edinburgh-based charity Mercy Corps is rehabilitating these young people and preventing the recruitment of others. They provide a safe environment for former child combatants to live and process their experiences, overcome trauma and learn how to function again in society. This is done at specialist transitional centres with a mix of psychosocial support, life skills training, sports and relaxation activities, vocational training and business start-up support.
With the support of Mark Beaumont and Quadrathlong participants, Mercy Corps work in Columbia is helping to give these children a second chance. “Before, I thought guns gave you respect. Now I know respect means treating someone well, and them doing the same”— David, former child soldier
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