How to talk to your kids about Syria, by Sarah Williams, Child Psychologist

Sarah Williams is a child psychologist at Refugees As Survivors (RASNZ). She is currently working with the Syrian children and families arriving in New Zealand who seek the support of RASNZ during their 6-week orientation at the Mangere Refugee Resettlement Centre.

World Vision spoke to Sarah about how to speak to Kiwi children about the crisis in Syria and about refugees, and about the new Kiwis arriving here from the Middle East. 

1. Speak honestly, but use language they understand

Firstly, ask your child what they know about the situation. Listen to how they are making sense of what they know or what they have seen in the media.

Any discussion with children needs to be adjusted for age and level of understanding but it also needs to be honest. Children trust their parents to help them understand what happens in the world around them.

With younger children use situations they might understand – leaving one’s home, leaving possessions behind, fleeing without saying goodbye, feeling scared, trying to find a safe place. Talk to them about people in Syria needing to quickly leave their home and travel to another country to be safe due to the war.

With older children we can talk about what it means to be a refugee, the complexity of the Syrian situation, persecution, and the difficult journey to seek refuge in another country.

(To read more of this article, please follow the link below…)

https://www.worldvision.org.nz/news-blog/blogs-2017/may/how-to-talk-to-your-kids-about-syria

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“The Cellar’s Echo,” by Huberta Hellendoorn: A Child’s Experience of War: Link to a short story broadcast on Radio NZ

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“The child on the staircase imagines a secret place with walls so thick she cannot hear the guns and no windows through which she can see the dead bodies.”

Imagine if you will, a seven year-old girl sheltering with her family in the cellar of their house as war rages in the streets outside. What does she feel?

Huberta Hellendoorn’s The Cellar’s Echo vividly recounts her own childhood experience in Holland during the last days of World War II. And who could have imagined that 50 years later she would make a remarkable re-connection with that fearful past?

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Huberta at kindergarten (“We started school at 6 years old but because my birthday was in October I had to wait until August of the next year before I could start school.”) Photo: Supplied

The first Palm Sunday celebration after the war, which was held on a Saturday). Evidence of war damage still to be seen. (Huberta says this photo may have been taken by a newspaper.)

A photo taken by Huberta’s family GP, Dr JB Thate, whose sons Henk was her classmate.Photo: Supplied

Fear, dread, horror? These are powerful and primitive human emotions all children experience. We all fear the dark, the unknown thing under the bed, scary pirates from a movie. But these are products of our imagination, however real they may seem.

(To read more, and listen to the short story, please follow the link below…)

http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/standing-room-only/audio/201822985/the-cellar’s-echo

Part of her “Forever Years” spent in a Nazi Death Camp: Miracle that saved a girl from Auschwitz gas chamber, by Paul Ewart

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Yvonne Engelmann was just 15 when she was rounded up with her family and sent to Auschwitz concentration camp, one of the network of German Nazi extermination camps operated by the Third Reich in Poland in World War II from 1940-1945.

But it was an unlikely miracle that saw her survive to tell the disturbing tale.

After arriving at the camp, Yvonne was immediately sent to the gas chamber. Thanks to some strange twist of fate, it malfunctioned and she was left naked in the chamber overnight before being freed.

By some miracle, the Nazis kept her alive, and she was sent to sort through the clothes of newly arrived Jews to find any gold or valuables they’d hidden.

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The infamous German inscription that reads ‘Work Makes Free’ at the main gate of the Auschwitz I extermination camp on November 15, 2014 in Oswiecim, Poland. Photo / AP

Her “job” saw her stationed in between the crematorium (which burnt 24-hours daily) and the gas chambers. She ended up being the sole survivor from her entire family, and made a new life for herself in Australia.

“I was 14 and a half when war broke out,” Yvonne tells news.com.au.

“I wasn’t allowed to go to school, I couldn’t walk on the street, I had to wear the yellow Star of David and couldn’t mix with any non-Jewish people. Friends I’d grown up with now totally ignored me, solely because I was born a Jew.

“My father was taken to the police station many times and we never knew if he would come back. One day he returned and his front teeth had been knocked out. We lived in fear constantly – we had no idea what would happen to us in the next hour, let alone in the next day.”

Born in Czechoslovakia to shopkeeper parents, Yvonne was an only child.

“I had the most wonderful childhood that anyone could wish for, but unfortunately it was short-lived.”

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Yvonne Engelman says as a survivor of Auschwitz it is important to perpetuate the memory of those lost and volunteers her time to teach and “tell the world what really happened”. (Photo Source: Sydney Jewish Museum)

In the limbo of uncertainty, things went from bad to worse. Her parents’ shop was taken away and the family was forcibly removed from their home to a cramped Jewish ghetto.

At the approach of her 15th birthday, she and her family were taken from the ghetto – along with hundreds of others – to the railway station where they were piled into dozens of cattle wagons.

“Men, women, children, screaming babies – the journey was too horrific to even describe,” she recalls.

“There was no ventilation, it was hot, an overflowing tin bucket was the only toilet … we were stripped of our humanity.”

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A wedding photo of holocaust survivors Yvonne (nee Engel) and John Engelman, 1949, Australia

(To read more of this article, please follow the link below…)

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/world/news/article.cfm?c_id=2&objectid=11721357

See also related post:

https://theforeveryears.wordpress.com/2015/04/15/born-in-auschwitz-how-one-woman-delivered-3000-babies-during-the-holocaust/

How would your Kids fare as Soldiers? Red Hand Day, 12th February. By Kirsteen McLay-Knopp

Red Hand Day

I have four children.  The eldest turns eleven this year, the youngest is five.  February 12th is “Red Hand Day”, an internationally recognised day for raising awareness of the plight of “Child soldiers” (anyone under the age of 18 who, for what ever reason, bears arms and fights in a conflict).  On the eve of that day, I think about my own children… each has their own, distinct personality, goals, hopes and aspirations.  They all love to play.  We work hard every day to enable them to attend school, participate in sports and other activities and to try to equip them with skills for their future lives, as so many parents do, all around the world.  As parents in “peaceful” countries, we are busy with day to day life and the tasks involved in raising our kids.  Many prefer not to think about the plights of “other people’s children” in “other countries”, one of the worst of which is that of children made to fight adults’ wars.  Some believe problems such as this are just “too big”, so why even bother thinking about them?

Here at “The Forever Years”, we see the world as a “global family” and believe that this is an important way to think if we are to advocate for the rights of all children everywhere and encourage those who love and care for them.  All people are connected and TV images are not so removed from us as we think.  If we imagine the fate of child soldiers as being that of our own children, we recoil in horror: the low life expectancy, lack of education or play opportunity, the effects of seeing siblings and friends killed, the fact that child soldiers have a high chance of being physically or sexually abused, as well as all the post traumatic shock effects we see in adult soldiers, are soul destroying, to say the least.  You wouldn’t let this happen to your kids– in fact, it’s the very opposite of the protection all our children everywhere deserve.

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Some facts about Child soldiers…

  • Child soldiers are any children under the age of 18 who are recruited by a state or non-state armed group and used as fighters, cooks, suicide bombers, human shields, messengers, spies, or for sexual purposes.
  • In the last 15 years, the use of child soldiers has spread to almost every region of the world and every armed conflict. Though an exact number is impossible to define, thousands of child soldiers are illegally serving in armed conflict around the world. 

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    Child soldiers of the resistance Mong Tai Army during training with their commander in Myanmar

  • Children who are poor, displaced from their families, have limited access to education, or live in a combat zone are more likely to be forcibly recruited.  
  • Children who are not forced to be soldiers volunteer themselves, because they feel societal pressure and are under the impression that volunteering will provide a form of income, food, or security, and willingly join the group.  

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    lsis child soldiers

  • Girls make up an estimated 10 to 30 percent of child soldiers used for fighting and other purposes. They are especially vulnerable when it comes to sexual violence.    56bea3630a58a994ccfa78dec2dfb284
  • A few of the countries who have reported use of child soldiers in recent years are  Afghanistan, Burma/ Myanmar, Central African Republic, Chad, Colombia, Democratic Republic of Congo, India, Iraq, Israel, Libya, Mali, Pakistan, The Philippines,  Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Thailand, Uganda and Yemen.  

    Source: www.cnn.com

    Source: www.cnn.com

  • The recruitment of child soldiers breaks several human rights laws.

Source: https://www.dosomething.org/facts/11-facts-about-child-soldiers

For more facts about the reasons for the use of child soldiers in the countries mentioned above, follow the link below…

https://www.hrw.org/news/2012/03/12/child-soldiers-worldwide

The “Kony Video” in 2012, although unsuccessful in leading to the capture of Joseph Kony, leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA),  in Uganda, was still a victory for child advocacy in that it drew attention to the dire state of affairs with regards to child soldiers around the planet and also drove Kony and his followers into hiding, thus ending his recruitment of child soldiers.

To see another article on “The Forever Years” about Child soldiers, including the famous “Kony Video”, follow the link below:

https://theforeveryears.wordpress.com/2015/05/20/we-neednt-wait-for-conflicts-to-end-for-children-to-be-removed-from-armed-organizations-by-siddharth-chatterjee/

The “Kony Video” is powerful, because  it shows that individuals can focus on a particular area of concern and affect change.  There are a number of online movements and petitions where ordinary people can express their concern at the plight of child soldiers… see the above link above  https://www.dosomething.org/.

UNlCEF’s #childrennotsoldiers campaign provided another such way of expressing support (see pictures below).

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Model UN team @ Liberty North High Sc. MI says they are #ChildrenNotSoldiers after listening to our chief of office Source: https://twitter.com/libertynorthmun

Model UN team @ Liberty North High Sc. MI says they are #ChildrenNotSoldiers after listening to our chief of office Source: https://twitter.com/libertynorthmun

Secretary-General Photo op for #ChildrenNotSoldiers social media campaign by and armed conflict.

Secretary-General Photo op for #ChildrenNotSoldiers social media campaign by and armed conflict. Source: https://childrenandarmedconflict.un.org/ar/secretary-general-photo-op-for-childrennotsoldiers-social-media-campaign-by-and-armed-conflict-5/

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United Nations News Centre

The resource below could be useful when discussing the issue of child soldiers with kids.

Other good sites with ideas and resources for helping raise awareness and ending the plight of child soldiers:

http://culturesofresistance.org/end-child-soldiers

https://www.warchild.org.uk/issues/child-soldiers

http://www.peacedirect.org/child-soldiers

Of course “Red Hand Day” provides another opportunity to promote awareness around the globe.  These kids deserve better… they are “our” children too.

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The Ripple Effects of Kindness to Kids, A Wonderful Story!

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The incredible story of Hilde Back and Chris Mburu shows how even small acts of kindness can touch many lives in ways entirely unforeseen. When she was a girl, a stranger’s kindness saved Hilde Back’s life by helping her to escape to Sweden from Nazi Germany where both her parents died in concentration camps. Back eventually became a teacher and, remembering her days as a Jewish girl in Germany when she was denied the opportunity to attend school under the Nazi Nuremburg Laws, she decided to pay for the education of a child who would otherwise not have a chance to go to school. The child she sponsored was Chris Mburu.

Mburu grew up in a poor family in rural Kenya whose family could not afford to pay the small tuition fee required for children to continue their studies beyond elementary school. Due to his excellent grades, he was selected for participation in a Swedish sponsorship program and Hilde Back paid his way through secondary school. Mburu excelled in school and went on to earn degrees from the University of Nairobi and Harvard Law School.

In order to help other talented children from poor families continue their studies at secondary school, Mburu created a foundation in 2001. With the support of the Swedish Ambassador in Kenya, Mburu was able to track down the benefactor who had transformed his life and named the foundation in her honor: The Hilde Back Education Fund.

(To read more, including great links to documentaries etc related to this story, follow the link below…)

https://www.facebook.com/amightygirl/posts/932391220130525:0

Paris attacks: How to explain the horror to children, by Sally Peck

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MANILA, PHILIPPINES - NOVEMBER 16:  A young girl lights candles to honour victims of the Paris terror attacks at Alliance Francais Manila on November 16, 2015 in Manila, Philippines. 129 people were killed and hundreds more injured in Paris following a series of terrorist acts in the French capital on Friday night.  (Photo by Dondi Tawatao/Getty Images) *** BESTPIX ***

MANILA, PHILIPPINES – NOVEMBER 16: A young girl lights candles to honour victims of the Paris terror attacks at Alliance Francais Manila on November 16, 2015 in Manila, Philippines. 129 people were killed and hundreds more injured in Paris following a series of terrorist acts in the French capital. (Photo by Dondi Tawatao/Getty Images) *** BESTPIX ***

As parents, there is a constant temptation to shield our children from bad news. But sometimes, and in particular with acts of terrorism, bad news is unavoidable – it’s in on television, it’s on social media, and it’s on our minds.

Like most people, I’ve been carefully following the news from Paris. My family has close ties to France, and my children’s ears perked up when news of the attacks came on the radio.

How to talk to children

For guidance on how to talk to my children about the attacks in Paris, I rang Gemma Allen, a senior bereavement counsellor at Winston’s Wish, Britain’s leading charity for bereaved children, who offers the following tips for talking to children about terrorist attacks.

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Children may have already heard the news Photo: Alamy

Here’s what she told me:

Language matters: For children of all ages, the most important thing is to reassure them that they are safe. Don’t get into the political context with primary-aged children. That may come up in conversation with older children, but the importance at any age is offering the reassurance that they are safe.

For pre-school children, use concrete language: don’t say “This person went to sleep” or “We’ve lost that person” – because that could instil fear or anxiety in that child about going to sleep. And what does lost mean? They’re lost at the shops? Be accurate and mindful of the impact of your language.

Age-appropriate conversations: For pre-school, think about how much exposure they’ve had. Maybe they’ve overheard the news, so the conversation could be quite brief: acknowledge what has happened, and say that lots of people have died as a result of a really bad incident. You can say that we don’t know why this has happened.

Two minutes silence to remember those killed in the Paris attack

Acknowledge what has happened, and say lots of people died as a result of a really bad incident Photo: Eddie Mulholland/The Telegraph

As the parent or teacher or carer, the most important part is to offer reassurance: this is very unusual, there are lots of safety checks in place to protect us. Use age-appropriate language, and be aware of what your child understands: do they really know what “died” means? It’s usually not until the age of 5 or 6 that children understand that death is permanent.

With primary school, the majority will understand what “dead” means. So it may be that you can add details – you may be able to sit down and watch the 6 o’clock news together.

The perpetrators: You should talk about a bad action or behaviour – not bad people. Ms Allen explains: “A lot of our work is with families bereaved through murder. With children, you must be careful about the language: people aren’t bad – it’s something bad that they’ve done – this helps prevent anxiety in children, and fears that ‘bad people’ are coming to get them.”

Paris terror suspects: (Clockwise from top left) Abdeslam Salah, Bilal Hadfi, Ahmad Almohamad, Omar Mostefai, Samy Amimour and Abdelhamid Abaaoud

Don’t call the suspects “bad men”

Social media awareness: Secondary school aged children will have come across news about the Paris attacks already on social media. Remind them that some of the things they have read there may be incorrect. Have a conversation with your child about what they think has happened. Talk about the images they’ve seen – these can be more powerful than words. If they see an image, and haven’t had a conversation with someone they trust, they will build up these images something that is so big that it’s unmanageable for them; you don’t want a child to start fantasising that someone is going to come after them.

Promote peace: As I explained to my children, who are primary and pre-school age, the facts of what had happened, I tried to shift their focus towards the coming together of the people of Paris, and the work people around the world to keep everyone safe.

A memorial to the victims of the terror attacks outside the French embassy in Mexico CityFocus on the coming together of people in solidarity  Photo: AP Photo/Marco Ugarte

Shield them: From certain politicians’ dangerous reactions – for example, by sayings that terrorists were carrying out “an organised attempt to destroy Western civilisation,” Jeb Bush granted these men more power than they have. This hysteria is exactly what the people carrying out these acts want. And it is exactly this sort of hysteria that we, as parents, need to protect our children from.

(To read more of this article, follow the link below…)

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/mother-tongue/12000620/Paris-attacks-How-to-explain-the-horror-to-children.html?utm_campaign=Echobox&utm_medium=Social&utm_source=Facebook&fb_ref=Default&fb_source=message

“How long will they let our children either be killed by terrorists or drown trying to escape?” by Deepinder Mayell, director of The Advocates for Human Rights’ Refugee and Immigrant Program.

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The photo of two-year-old Aylan Kurdi on a Turkish beach is an image we should never forget. Instead of romping on the resort beach, Aylan―in his red shirt and dark pants—lies lifeless, his face buried in the sand.

Aylan; his brother, Galip; his mother, Rehan; and his father, Abdullah, had fled the violence in Syria, crossing the Aegean Sea to Greece, and with plans to eventually make their way to Germany or Canada. But high waves flipped the 15-foot rubber raft they were in, pitching them into the sea. The little boys and their mother, and at least nine others, drowned. Only Abdullah survived.

The Kurdi family was on that boat because they were desperate. Eleven of their relatives had been slaughtered at the hands of the Islamic State [ISIS] in the Kurdish-Syrian city of Kobane in June.

There are more refugees in the world trying to escape unimaginable violence than at any other time since the world began keeping records of such desperate journeys. The international community has failed to address the crises. Countries’ policies that exacerbate and intensify the suffering of refugees compound the grief.

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Aylan & Galip Kurdi in happier times…

(To read more, follow the link below…)

http://theadvocatespost.org/2015/09/04/how-long-will-they-let-our-children-either-be-killed-by-terrorists-or-drown-trying-to-escape/

Note from Editor…

“The Forever Years” sends our sincere condolences to Abdullah Kurdi and the extended Kurdi family.  We apologise for reproducing this shocking image of Aylan’s body once again (it has already gone viral), but, as a child advocacy blog, we feel strongly that people around the world should be aware of exactly what is happening, of how millions of innocent children and families are suffering in this crisis.  We are a Global Family, Aylan is one of our children and if such a tragedy happened in our own families we would expect the world to be outraged… and for citizens of countries that are able to push their governments to prevent further such tragedies by accepting refugees.

Moving Forward from a Childhood under the Khmer Rouge, by Pisey Leng

1431947088727Even though I was only seven years old, my childhood ended abruptly on April 17, 1975. That was the day the Communist Khmer Rouge guerilla forces captured the city of Phnom Penh and Cambodia fell under the control of a murderous regime whose reign of terror resulted in the deaths of almost two million Cambodians.

As the mostly teen-aged soldiers marched into our city, they had flowers in the muzzles of their guns and waved to the crowds of Cambodians who celebrated their peaceful arrival. The celebration quickly turned into chaos when the Khmer Rouge soldiers began to order people from their homes and into the streets where they began a forced death-march into the countryside. Within two days, my parents, my older brother and I walked with two million other Cambodians who were forced from their homes leaving the city of Phnom Penh completely deserted. Those who protested or did not leave quickly enough were shot. No one was spared.

My eighth birthday passed during that terrifying three-month march where most of the sick and elderly died on the sides of the road. Shortly after we arrived at our labor camp, my father and brother were taken away to work in different mobile work groups. We were told that the Khmer Rouge leaders were our family and we now lived in the year zero. There was no music, manufacturing, mail, toilet facilities, medicine, motor vehicles or anything to make life easy or enjoyable. There was only work and death. Cambodia was brought back to the pre-industrial age in a radical social experiment that was horribly flawed.

My father was executed about six months after we were forced from the city and it was painfully obvious that death was the most likely outcome of our own ordeal. The Khmer Rouge’s leader Pol Pot condemned anything modern or western and blamed the plight of Cambodia’s peasant farmers on those who lived in the city. Professional and skilled workers were executed along with anyone who spoke a foreign language or wore glasses. Anyone who was even suspected of any formal education was murdered.

To read more, follow the link below…

http://www.proctorgallagherinstitute.com/6222/seek-happiness

Pisey Leng, who now lives in New Zealand, was born in Cambodia in 1968.  She has recently written a book about living under the Khmer Rouge as a child, and how this effected her later life.  Her book is entitled: The Wisdom Seeker: Finding the Seed of Advantage in the Khmer Rouge. 

Related Links:

http://www.stuff.co.nz/waikato-times/news/68624713/memoirs-of-a-cambodian-survivor

A message I wrote to Pisey Leng and her reply:

From Kirsteen McLay-Knopp:  An amazing story, Pisey Leng. As a New Zealander who has been to Cambodia and spent time living in Vietnam, I am so glad you were able to make Aotearoa into your new home and a place where you could find peace. 🙂

From Pisey Leng:  Kirsteen, Thank you. As I said New Zealand holds a very special place in my heart. Aotearoa gave me a heavenly home after 14 years of labour camps and refugee camps not knowing where my life would end up. It has given me much more than just a home. It has given me a new life, stability, hope and identity as a person. I’m no longer just a number in the labour camps or refugee camps. I can now walk proudly as a rightful citizen of Aotearoa. I’m Truly Blessed.

 

Is Education a Human Right? By Professor Ambassador Muhamed Sacirbey

Classroom(Originally Published in “The Huffington Post”.  Follow link below).

Editor’s Note:  Of course, here at “The Forever Years”, we believe that ALL children should have the opportunity to an education, particularly considering the enormous, positive difference that this makes! 🙂

Going beyond the rhetoric, should access to education be legally protected and addressed as a human right under international law? Education is increasingly highlighted as fundamental to the advancement of societies as well as essential to opportunity for individuals. Both the opportunity but also the right are too frequently unequal and arbitrarily secured. Girls have too often been shortchanged. Poverty and conflict frequently are obstacles as children barely in their teens are compelled to support hungry families or some are forced to become “child soldiers” or “comfort wives.” Malala Yousafzai, targeted by the Pakistani Taliban for assassination for promoting education for her generation of young men and women, stands out as a symbol for millions who are denied opportunity and access. What more can be done both in practice and definition by the United Nations and International Community?

Photo Credit: UNESCO

Photo Credit: UNESCO

(Read more at the following link…)

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/montclair-diplomats/is-education-a-human-right_b_4869049.html

“We needn’t wait for conflicts to end for children to be removed from armed organizations.” By Siddharth Chatterjee

C.Soldiers CollageThe Kony 2012 video viewed by nearly 100 million people stunned the world and brought back into focus the egregious use of children as combatants. The blatant terror and savagery taking place in a moral vacuum of sorts, where thousands of children are maimed, raped, killed and abused is a microcosm of a problem afflicting many parts of the world. It even spurred some U.S. Senators to act upon the decades of crimes against humanity committed by the notorious Lord’s Resistance Army in Northern Uganda.

Human Rights Watch confirmed reports of child soldiers being used extensively in recent weeks by the M 23 rebel group in the Congo. Young children continue to be recruited and used as soldiers, scarring them for life. Estimates suggest that as many as 300,000 child soldiers are active in conflicts around the world. 40% of armed forces (including national armies, militias, gangs, terrorist organizations and resistance forces) in the world use children.

Many erroneously believe that child soldiers are mostly boys. In fact, 30% of armed organizations that use children have girls. Girl soldiers aren’t just at risk for long-lasting physical and psychological wounds, they are almost always at risk of often brutal sexual violence as well.

Over 30% of children used as combatants are girls. Photo Credit: ©2006 Peter Mantello.

Over 30% of children used as combatants are girls. Photo Credit: ©2006 Peter Mantello.

The other fallacy is that the issue of child soldiers is isolated to armed militias in parts of Africa. Child soldiers have been used by armed groups in recent and ongoing conflicts in South Asia, Southeast Asia, the Middle East and South America. Moreover, some governments also recruit and use children under the age of 18 in their armed forces.

(To read further, follow the link below…)

http://www.forbes.com/sites/realspin/2012/12/09/for-child-soldiers-every-day-is-a-living-nightmare/

 

(See also “the Kony Video”, below… riveting watching about this very important topic and a lesson to us all about how individuals CAN make a difference for our global family.  🙂 )

Editor’s Note (by Kirsteen McLay-Knopp)

Just a follow up note to “the Kony Video”… Joseph Kony is still alive, although there have been reports that he has poor health.  He has evaded capture so far.  However, the world wide campaign in 2012 (in the video), forced him (once he realised that he was “wanted”) to go into hiding… with the result that thousands of children who would otherwise have become his soldiers are, instead, in school and living “normal” young lives.