So one of the places that I work at is called CRI – Centro de Rehabilitacion Inclusiva.
It is part of the military here. I didn’t know this, but during the Korean War, Colombia helped out Korea and the center was built with the Koreans for the Colombian Army as a thank you for that service. Although the Colombian government paid a lot of the costs, at least 1/2 was paid by Korea.
Korea stated, “We have never forgotten the help that Colombia gave us in this war and will always have Colombia as a special friend.”
This center helps to rehabilitate wounded soldiers and works with the physical, mental and emotional needs of the soldiers. Most of the soldiers that I work with were wounded in the war against the Farc rebels and the ELN. President Santos inaugurated the center in August of 2016 joined by the Korean ambassador.
The center can take care of 1,200 soldiers at a time.
The center has housing for the soldiers and a cafeteria that they get their meals from. The center has beautiful grounds that are gardens and a pool with flowers, benches and grass. It is very well tended and the staff are caring and friendly. There is even a resident dog named Candela!
There is a building dedicated to helping the soldiers adjust to life outside the center. It has a model bus where the soldiers learn how to get on and off the city buses in their wheelchairs. There is a model apartment with all the basic appliances that the soldiers learn how to navigate in their wheelchairs. This center is the first stop for the soldiers following their surgeries.
Many of the accidents are landmine related. A lot of the soldiers are missing parts of legs and arms. Some are blind, others have had repeated surgeries to try to save their limbs. Most of the soldiers are suffering from PTSD and thus have a hard time taking in the information they are receiving and remembering it.
There is a full scale gym, a climbing wall and a large indoor swimming pool for the soldier’s physical rehabilitation. There is a library, a tech center and classes for the student’s mental recovery. There are many different subjects that the soldiers can learn about as well as play on sitting volleyball or Futsal teams, or take photography and art classes.
I work with the soldiers mental rehabilitation. I am teaching English here at the center in the afternoon. I teach a Basic English class and then an Intermediate English class. A colleague teaches the same classes in the mornings. My students are eager to learn and practice their new language skills. They are not always regular attenders as they have various appointments with doctors and therapists that they have to fit into their schedules, so at times the progress can be rather slow, but the keep coming and are always thankful for the opportunity and never give up.
Another thing that inhibits my teaching is that a lot of the soldiers haven’t had an education past the 5th to 8th grade and then were enlisted in this war against countrymen. They don´t have a good grasp of the Spanish language much less are ready mentally to learn the English language.
I really admire their tenacity and their determination to come to class and put forth their full effort and really give it a go. I have been able to witness a soldier from first admittance full of shock and fear to a confident soldier navigating well in his wheelchair and feeling much more confident in his ability to manage life without his legs.
I am so proud to be a part of this recovery.