Liberia’s Future Leaders
The country of Liberia in Africa has been ravaged by 14 years of war. A recent ceasefire has brought freedom to an estimated 21,000 child soldiers. These children were forced by poverty or violence to fight and kill their own people. Churches are working now to restore the future for Liberia’s children. Lilla Marigza reports.
They look like typical teenagers, but Akim and Philip have seen things no one should see in a lifetime.
Philip Karhan/Former Soldier: “To fight is no good.”
These boys were soldiers caught up in a civil war in their homeland of Liberia, Africa.
David Konneh/Social Worker: “Looking at what their drawings, most of them reflect what was done during the war. You see a little boy standing with his gun, and a dead person.”
Akim Werkpewolo/Former Soldier: “No, no, I not happy. They force me.
The United Methodist Church is helping to rehabilitate child soldiers. But social workers say turning trained killers back into children has been a real challenge.
David Konneh: “You were a commander, you used to command people of your mother’s age, and now someone is telling you to go wash your dishes, go and clean your room. So from the beginning it was very difficult. They didn’t understand that.”
The children are offered housing, counseling, and vocational training.
Marcos Melaku/United Methodist Committee on Relief: “Our job is to train former combatants in skills. The skills are carpentry, masonry, tailoring, hairdressing.”
As their country now tries to heal the damage done by 14 years of war, these children have a safe home and a plan for the future.
Philip Karhan: “My life is good.”
Akim Werkpewolo: “I like to go to school and be a good man, be working, and be happy with my people.”
For now, tomorrow’s leaders are making up for lost time…and living a bit of the childhood they missed.
There are an estimated 15,000 former child soldiers in Liberia. Both boys and girls were “recruited” into service. To learn more about programs in Liberia, contact the Advance for Christ or the United Methodist Committee on Relief.
For more information, see Church helps former child soldiers find lost childhoods.
File footage courtesy of Joseph Zeogar, Liberia Annual Conference.