Landmine Survivor Speaks Out

Adelmo, second from left, as part of the Polus Center Cauca outreach team. Pictured from left: Paola Meneses, Clara López, Michael Lundquist.

Adelmo, second from left, as part of the Polus Center Cauca outreach team. Pictured from left: Paola Meneses, Clara López, Michael Lundquist.

One Empowered Survivor Finds His Voice

September 15th, 2002 was Adelmo Uni Jimenez’s 27th birthday. Walking along a bridle path In the Yanacona Indigenous community of Cauca, Colombia, Adelmo was rounding up his animals and thinking about a special birthday lunch, when a blast knocked him down to the ground and he lost consciousness. Although he could not immediately focus when he woke up, he felt he was alive. A searing pain in his right leg drew his attention, and he saw that it was torn open. A tight muffled sensation in his left foot was not painful, but when he looked, he could not immediately understand what had happened; from the heel down, there was nothing left.

Adelmo Uni Jimenez. photo: Stephen Petegorsky

Adelmo Uni Jimenez. photo: Stephen Petegorsky

According to current data from the Campaign Against Antipersonnel Mines, over 245 civilians have been victimized in Cauca alone, with 111 of them being children traveling to and from school. The remaining victims are farmers or country people going about life’s daily tasks.  Landmines instill fear in the communities they plague and are a lethal barrier to development. Adelmo was one of the first victims in this part of Cauca. “You think one thing, but fate gives you another” he says “I had heard about the mines and all that, but I thought it only happened in areas like the Eastern Plains, not over here. The last thing I expected was one exploding under foot”. The antipersonnel mine Adelmo triggered was only 25 minutes from his house and resulted in an above the knee amputation.  It narrowly missed the nephew who was travelling with him that day.

Adelmo is interviewed by a local Cauca News team regarding victim assistance and the work that ASODESAM does with landmine survivors.

Adelmo is interviewed by a local Cauca News team regarding victim assistance and the work that ASODESAM does with landmine survivors.

Victim assistance programs with a wide range of physical, psychosocial and economic initiatives help people, their families, and impart benefits which ripple throughout entire communities. The Polus Center for Social & Economic Development, Inc. has been supporting Adelmo not only in his physical recovery, but in developing his leadership skills.

In 2016 Adelmo helped the Polus Center reach out to landmine survivors in the rural department of Cauca. As a Polus team member, Adelmo often traveled to remote areas to meet with and assess the needs of coffee farmers who had suffered injuries from landmines. It was during this time that Adelmo’s natural positivity and innate leadership skills became apparent to those working with him. His personal commitment as an advocate, and deep respect for the victim assistance process were easily recognizable and the Polus Center decided to formally help Adelmo strengthen his skills.

At International Mine Awareness Day, Adelmo spoke of the challenges landmine survivors face.

At International Mine Awareness Day, Adelmo spoke of the challenges landmine survivors face.

Working with him on presentation and public speaking about the issue of landmines in Colombia, we encouraged him to continue his advocacy for landmine survivors by accepting engagements at various events. Since that time Adelmo has not only advocated for landmine survivors in Colombia but was invited to travel to Geneva for the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining (GICHD) representing Colombia as a well know advocate for landmine victim assistance.

Adelmo, center, attends the Sixteenth Meeting of the States Parties with the support of HI and Polus Center, Dec 18-21, 2017 | Vienna, Austria

Adelmo, center, attends the Sixteenth Meeting of the States Parties with the support of HI and Polus Center, Dec 18-21, 2017 | Vienna, Austria

Today, Adelmo is chaiman of the association of Survivors of Antipersonnel Mines of Cauca, (ASODESAM), and once again joined the Polus Center team on their recent landmine survivor outreach trip to Cauca.  He continues his work with Asodesam, building membership and raising awareness.

Adelmo receiving an award from the President of Colombia, for his advocacy work with landmine survivors

Adelmo receiving an award from the President of Colombia, for his advocacy work with landmine survivors