Hope in the face of horror

Even after enduring atrocities, these children still dream of becoming teachers and doctors

Share
Related Topics

 

Please donate to our appeal for child soldiers here.

Traveling for Unicef as a Goodwill Ambassador for over a decade, my focus has been on the most vulnerable children in countries - particularly in Africa - that are impacted by conflict.  It has brought me to camps for displaced families in regions convulsed by violence - Darfur, Chad, South Sudan, Somalia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic.   Almost always, people are eager to tell their stories.  The stuff of nightmares. They think the world should know what is happening to them, if the world but knew, surely someone would come to save them.

Even in the face of unthinkable horrors and immeasurable losses, they hold the hope that a 'normal' day will come again for them. And no matter how deplorable the circumstances, every child has a dream: “I want to be a doctor! I want to be a teacher! I want to be a pilot! And for one shining second, everything is possible

(Watch our playlist of videos from the Christmas Appeal here)

This year I made my second journey through the DR Congo where I met 12-year-old 'David' in a Unicef-supported centre for children associated with armed conflict – a camp similar to those in the Central African Republic where Unicef’s work with rescued child soldiers is the focus of this year’s Christmas Appeal by The Independent newspaper.

David said he was about 10 when armed men broke into his home and tore him from his mother’s arms.   He was taken to a rebel camp and forced to fight, forced to kill.  “There were lots of people killed but somehow I survived,” he told me. 

David survived for two impossible years before he managed to escape. Someone brought him to the centre where he was safe and, along with dozens of other boys who have served as soldiers, he could learn a trade.

While the centre searches for their families the children attend class, play games, wash their clothes – and some, like David, sing about their experiences and better days ahead. 

In a nearby center, I met girls who had escaped from armed groups. Most, if not all, had been raped.  My conversation with 15-year-old ‘Gloria’ will stay with me always. She somehow found words to tell me what had been done to her, and how she was near death, giving birth to a child, when the militia left her on a roadside.  She was brought to a clinic, and eventually to this center. In a child's whisper she expressed her longing to make a good life for herself- but especially for the baby boy cooing on her lap. 

“If only I had a sewing machine,” she whispered.  “I'm good at sewing.”  Gloria vowed that her son would one day be 'an educated man.'

For now, she is getting the training she needs along with psychological counseling to help her cope with the trauma she struggles with.  She will be mentored by a professional tailor and yes - she will have her own sewing machine. 

Despite all that they have endured, David and Gloria are the 'lucky' ones. They are being helped to heal and to realize their goals.  But for countless thousands of child victims of war, there is no safe place, no one to help.

This is where Unicef wants to be- in the places where the world’s most vulnerable children are suffering most. It’s a team effort.  Unicef can’t do it without support.  Won’t you please join us - together we can literally save kids lives.  

All of Unicef's work with child soldiers is funded by donations, please be as generous as you can. Click here to donate. Text CHILD to 70030 to donate five pounds. Click here to bid in our charity auction

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Accounts Office Administrator

£15000 - £16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The ideal candidates will have ...

Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer

£22000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper

£23000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing boutique prac...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Executive

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Daily catch-up: religion, politics and roads named after dictators

John Rentoul
 

Letter from the Education Editor: This shocking abuse of teachers should be taken seriously

Richard Garner
War with Isis: Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria's capital

War with Isis

Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria
Scientists develop mechanical spring-loaded leg brace to improve walking

A spring in your step?

Scientists develop mechanical leg brace to help take a load off
Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock: How London shaped the director's art and obsessions

Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock

Ackroyd has devoted his literary career to chronicling the capital and its characters. He tells John Walsh why he chose the master of suspense as his latest subject
Ryan Reynolds interview: The actor is branching out with Nazi art-theft drama Woman in Gold

Ryan Reynolds branches out in Woman in Gold

For every box-office smash in Ryan Reynolds' Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. It's time for a rethink and a reboot, the actor tells James Mottram
Why Robin Williams safeguarded himself against a morbid trend in advertising

Stars safeguard against morbid advertising

As film-makers and advertisers make increasing posthumous use of celebrities' images, some stars are finding new ways of ensuring that they rest in peace
The UK horticulture industry is facing a skills crisis - but Great Dixter aims to change all that

UK horticulture industry facing skills crisis

Great Dixter manor house in East Sussex is encouraging people to work in the industry by offering three scholarships a year to students, as well as generous placements
Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head

Hack Circus: Technology, art and learning

Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head. Rhodri Marsden meets mistress of ceremonies Leila Johnston
Sevenoaks is split over much-delayed decision on controversial grammar school annexe

Sevenoaks split over grammar school annexe

If Weald of Kent Grammar School is given the go-ahead for an annexe in leafy Sevenoaks, it will be the first selective state school to open in 50 years
10 best compact cameras

A look through the lens: 10 best compact cameras

If your smartphone won’t quite cut it, it’s time to invest in a new portable gadget
Paul Scholes column: Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now

Paul Scholes column

Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now
Why Michael Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Why Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Manchester United's talented midfielder has played international football for almost 14 years yet, frustratingly, has won only 32 caps, says Sam Wallace
Tracey Neville: The netball coach who is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

Tracey Neville is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

The former player on how she is finding time to coach both Manchester Thunder in the Superleague and England in this year's World Cup
General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?