When 'Sticking To Your Guns' Means Giving Them Up

"I don’t think I carry any dead behind me. But I’ve injured a lot of people"

These unsettling words belong to Bayardo Fargas. He’s 31 and from Managua, Nicaragua.

Made to feel helpless and angry after years of witnessing his mother endure domestic abuse, he turned to a life of crime at a young age. For many years Bayardo was a heavy drug user, drug dealer and gang member. He was no stranger to guns and gun crime.

He lived a life of destruction. Harming his own body, other people’s bodies, and his local community as a whole.

Today, after many years of support and counselling sessions from CEPREV (an NGO non-profit organisation, founded in 1997 with the aim of contributing to the construction of a culture of peace in Nicaragua and Central America) he made the decision to change his life for the better.

To stick to his guns, he’s ultimately made the decision to give his guns up. In their place he has decided to hold a paintbrush, starting a new career as a painter and decorator.

But houses are not the only things he fixes in his new life. Now a committed husband and father of two, he has helped to mend the tension within his local community by working to dismantle local gangs and get kids out of gang culture. He now regularly volunteers with CEPREV - reaching out to other young men in his neighbourhood in order to stop their life of drugs, drinking and crime.

Thanks to the work of people like Bayardo with CEPREV, violence has been significantly reduced in deprived neighbourhoods of Managua in Nicaragua. In the past 15 years CEPREV says it has broken up about 90 gangs in Nicaragua by focusing on young men’s exaggerated sense of masculinity and the violence that it leads to.

What defines us are the decisions we take in life. We all have the capacity to actively choose to be a force for good, or a force for bad.

Bayardo might have been a destructive force in the past, but he now has dedicated his life to fixing and mending. No longer judged by his past he has his whole life ahead of him.

He stuck to his guns (by giving them up).