Mi Querido Soldado was established in 2006 with the goal of bringing economic opportunities to soldiers with disabilities, as well as widows and orphans of soldiers. The company focuses on the production, marketing and selling of home textiles – bedsheets and towels – and clothing providing economic benefits to 637 families. Mi Querido Soldado offers psychosocial care for soldiers to face their disability and rebuild their lives with complementary projects in housing and education.
We interviewed Marcela Carrillo on the day that Mi Querido Soldado celebrates the 4th anniversary of receiving the award. Marcela has worked for 12 years to give jobs opportunities to soldiers – “Colombian Heroes” as she calls them. She is a dedicated and inspiring woman that has learnt that with love and respect, soldiers can be brought back to an economically productive life.
Mi Querido Soldado started 15 years ago sending letters to soldiers in remote areas. Letters were written by students from schools from all over the country and would start as “Querido Soldado – Dear soldier…”. Later on, they were sending basic needs items to the soldiers like pyjamas or toothpaste.
But 12 years ago, Querido Soldado realised that injured and disabled soldiers – those who couldn’t go back to fight – were just rehabilitated and provided with prothesis and a 2 years subsidy from the Colombian Government. After that, soldiers were alone, many of them were psychologically instable and were facing drugs and alcohol problems. Some of them were even joining the paramilitarism since combat was the only way they knew how to earn an income.
Mi Querido Soldado started with 4 soldiers, teaching them how to sew towels. It was not an easy task, Marcela says. Many of them “deserted”, but Marcela (who is a self-trained administrator/psychologist/seamstress) learnt that with love and respect she could teach the ex-soldiers how to be part of a team with women and how to receive instructions from women in managerial positions.
Marcela and her team found in the Emprender Paz Award a recognition for the company and soldiers´ journey towards peace building, demonstrating that it is possible to go back to civilian life after the military service. The technical support provided allowed them to standardize the processes, become more efficient and engage with new commercial partners.
“Emprender Paz allowed us to improve our production to keep building peace through providing jobs to soldiers and their families”
Diana Marcela Carrillo Rodríguez, Mi Querido Soldado