Former child soldier on tough road to recovery, appeals to end violence against children
John* was a former child soldier was abducted in 2017 on his way back from work in the farm in South Sudan’s Western Equatoria State. He was among the thousands of children who became child soldiers and whose lives were drastically changed by the conflict in the country.
“I was in senior one class and full of hope for the future. All of my dreams got brushed off, and my life went dark, stained with blood and tears of innocent people. No child deserve this", John sadly recalls.
John, fortunately, was among the children first to be released, facilitated by the National Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (NDDR) in 2018.
Now a father of one, John is the breadwinner of his extended family of eight people. He says, “God protected me in the bush, and then, World Vision and partners intervened to help equip me with skills. Now I can provide for my family.”
Before his abduction, he did odd jobs to support himself in school. He says, “My mother used to provide for all of my siblings. I tried to support her by earning for my needs in school. When she died, it is all on me since my father is jobless.”
World Vision’s previous Children Associated with Armed Forces and Groups (CAAFAG) Project supported by UNICEF had assigned a social worker for every released child to do comprehensive case management, psychosocial support, and conduct family tracing and reunification.
“At first, I was hesitant to share anything with the social worker. After a week, everything came out and it felt like a fresh beginning for me. He even became part of my family and took time to comfort us when we lost a child”, John adds.
The prevention efforts enhance the skills and knowledge of caregivers, community leaders, faith leaders, the civil society groups engaged in child protection activities.
As soon as he has recovered, John was enrolled in Tindoka Vocational Training Center for the tailoring class. He says, “I chose tailoring because it earns well for my siblings’ daily needs.”
Upon graduation, he received a start-up kit just like the other children in the class. It has all the materials he needed to start his tailoring shop he recalls, “I earn at least SSP5,000 (USD11) per day despite the challenges with customers.”
According to John, the sewing machine is his only source of livelihood. He says, “I am able to pay our bills and the school fees of my siblings. But most importantly, it restored my hope in myself. I appreciate World Vision’s psychosocial support helping my fast recovery.”
Denis Bambura, Project Manager for Focusing on Children with Unmet Child Protection Needs in South Sudan (FOCUS) shares, “World Vision is providing a series of activities in Yambio County to support these children become productive citizens."
The FOCUS Project is funded by the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) which is a cabinet-level ministry of the Federal Republic of Germany.
“These activities are both preventive and responsive. The prevention efforts focus in enhancing the skills and knowledge of caregivers, community leaders, faith leaders, the civil society groups engaged in child protection activities”, Bambura explains.
Overall, the project helps build the understanding and skills of the whole community to identify, recognize, and ensure actions ar taken to prevent or respond to child protection concerns.
*John is not his real name
Story by Joseph Ndepi, FOCUS Project Social Worker I Photos by Scovia Faida Charles Duku, Communications Coordinator