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

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

Law Costs

Highly Attractive Salary: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - This is a very unusual law c...

Junior VB.NET Application Developer (ASP.NET, SQL, Graduate)

£28000 - £30000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Junior VB.NET ...

C# .NET Web Developer (ASP.NET, JavaScript, jQuery, XML, XLST)

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Web De...

Clinical Negligence Solicitor

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: HAMPSHIRE MARKET TOWN - A highly attr...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

The power of anonymity lies in the freedom it grants

Boyd Tonkin
Rebel fighters walk in front of damaged buildings in Karam al-Jabal neighbourhood of Aleppo on August 26, 2014.  

The Isis threat must be confronted with clarity and determination

Ed Miliband
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference