Axelle Red in Colombia: “I will never forget the faces of these young women”

What made you decide to support Handicap International?

In 1997, I was asked to be the godmother of the Ottawa Treaty banning anti-personnel mines. A few years before, I had traveled to Vietnam when the country was still closed, I had a friend who knew someone at the embassy. With Filip (her husband, Editor’s note), we met a lot of victims of war and mines. Already at the time, we thought that after our studies, we would do something in the humanitarian field. Afterwards, I was lucky that music gave me the opportunity to do it professionally. I used my notoriety to do something human. It was with full conviction that I tried to convince the United States to sign this treaty, which they did not do. In the meantime, I also visited a Belgian army mine clearance center in Laos, a Handicap International prosthesis manufacturing center in Vietnam… Handicap International has always been present in my life. And then, I can’t stand that, when there is a war, it is civilians who are targeted, like women who are used as weapons of war through rape. The initiative of Jean-Baptiste Richardier, the founder of this NGO, was courageous, as are the teams on the ground. These are the people who make the difference on earth.

In Chaparral, you visited Handicap International’s training and training center for deminers. You spoke at length with the 13 deminers from the NGO. What do you remember from these encounters?

They work for six weeks away from their families, then they have two weeks off. It’s a huge sacrifice! What counts is not the mine that is cleared, but making cleared and safe land for populations and farmers so that they can return there and resume their lives. They are heroes! I have a lot of respect for the whole team. And each person really has their role to play.

A meeting particularly marked you.

I spent a lot of time with Marta. She is 40 years old. She touched me a lot. She’s a survivor… When she was 14, she almost stepped on a mine but she saw it at the last moment. Guerrillas killed her dad because her family was no longer able to pay the amount they were asking for. Marta had to leave her countryside to go live in town. She came back as soon as she could. She has experienced so many sacrifices, traumas… For several years now, Marta has been a deminer for Handicap International. She’s a heroine! His story reminds me of my song “Not Now” which tells the story of a child who steps on a mine. Marta is now a supervisor. It is also she who trains the new deminers.

The mission continued in the department of La Guajira, which has more than 100,000 Venezuelan migrants. In the Pista camp, you met many migrants with disabilities or vulnerability. What do you remember from this visit?

May this country, Colombia, which has known so much misery, be so welcoming to its neighbour. There is also misery in Belgium. We can do good around us, each on our own scale, and at the same time support causes abroad. I will never forget the faces of these young women. I tried to say encouraging words to them. For me, their children are not victims but heroes. They will teach us pride, courage, modesty towards life…

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