Child Soldier, Caring Man

UNICEF - child soldierAs you may know, for more than a decade I have served on the Southern California Executive Board for UNICEF and am deeply committed to the organization’s goals and success. I find that I am also deeply moved by the stories of individuals who emerge from unimaginable adversity to help others.

One such story is that of Ishmael Beah. When war came to Sierra Leone, Ishmael lost his entire family and, along with thousands of children, began running. By age 13 he had been captured and recruited into the army. There was an abundance of “arms and ammunition,” he says, “but no food or medicine. Violence became the way to show loyalty.”

It was two years and uncountable horrors later that Ishmael Beah encountered UNICEF representatives at a mission. Already hopeless and cynical, he assumed these people with the blue logos on their shirts would just recruit him into a worse form of violence. But they didn’t. They took his weapon away–a frightening prospect–and took Ishmael and other boys to a recovery center where he learned to “become a child again.”

Emerging from this transformative experience, Ishmael determined to make an example of himself, both for UNICEF and for other child soldiers. He wrote a book, A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier, and became a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, telling his story to audiences around the world.

I hope you will watch this short video about Ishmael Beah. Of course, Ishmael’s story is not the only one. Here’s another story out of Sierra Leone, this one about acute malnutrition and the use of ready-to-use therapeutic food (RUTF) that is saving children from starvation. Here’s a story about temporary classrooms where displaced, and often brutalized, Nigerian children are being educated, many for the first time ever. And here’s one about a 13-year-old Ethiopian girl who walks eight hours a day to collect water for her family–and what UNICEF is doing to help.

I’m proud to do my part and I hope you may be inspired to support UNICEF’s efforts to save and protect children. For every child, Hope.