Tag Archives: Africa

Child Soldiers: Examining the Solution

26 Sep

Guest blog post by Amanda F., Team Haiti 2012

When you think of a soldier what do you see? I picture a tall, strong man. He is a fearless fighter for his government; a positive exactitude, defending freedom and rights of the people of his country. That is not the case for child soldiers around the world. A child soldier is defined as, “a person under the age of 18 who directly or indirectly participates in an armed conflict as part of an armed force or group.” This definition is very cut and dry, but the life of a child soldier is so much more than that. Some children carry assault rifles, machetes or grenades on the front lines, while others are used in “combat support” roles as messengers, spies, cooks, mine cleaners and sexual slaves. These children have not only been robbed of their childhoods, many have personally experienced or witnessed executions, death squad killings, disappearances, torture, arrest, sexual abuse, bombings, forced displacement, destruction of their homes and massacres.

A 14 year old, abducted in 2000 by the Revolutionary United Front, in Sierra Leone said, “I’ve seen people get their hands cut off, a ten yer old girl raped and then die, and so many men and women burned alive, so many times I just cried inside my heart because I didn’t dare cry out loud.” (http://www.un.org/cyberschoolbus/briefing/ soldiers/index.htm) This ongoing trend of child soldiers is tragic and heartbreaking. According to recent investigation, the number of children who have been coerced or induced into armed forces as child soldiers is around 300,000.  The youngest child soldiers are around 7 years old, the average age of a first grader in America. Over 50 countries currently recruit children under 18 into their armed forces and no one is spared; over 1/3 of these children are female. Continue reading

A Touching Story from Uganda

20 Jul

Deborah, recent Journey 117 Uganda team member, shares about an orphan that captured her heart and reminded her of when she was 8 years old in a children’s home growing up…..

Safe In His Arms

While on my mission trip to Uganda I was working at a baby home feeding babies and loving on the littlest, sweetest orphans. I wanted to hold them all and just felt like I could have spent the whole 10 days there. A volunteer came into the nursery and asked if one of us could check in on a child that had been brought in that day. She said she was worried about her and felt bad leaving her. I immediately volunteered and headed to the isolation room. They kept them in there away from others until they could be checked out and cleared by a doctor. What I saw when I got there broke my heart. This child was in a dark room crying so hard she was hyperventilating. The sobs where gut-wrenching. I immediately picked her up and tried to console her. She clung to me with a death grip and continued to sob. I tried rocking her in my arms and rubbing her back and softly saying, “It’s ok, it’s ok.” The sobs kept coming and my heart kept breaking for her.

As I was turning around in this small room I saw the sign on the door that read “Isolation.” I was taken back by that because when I was 8 years old I was in a children’s home in an isolation room for three days. It was one of the hardest times of my life, and to this day I tear up when I think about it. I was traumatized more by that than any abuse I had ever endured. After the second night there I was at a breaking point. I thought I was going to go crazy if I didn’t talk to someone. So I cried out to GOD. I said, “If you are real, please come. I need you now and I can’t bear to be alone any more.” In that moment of desperation I felt HIS presence. It was if peace entered that room and I felt that HE wrapped me in HIS arms and instantly my tears stopped and I fell asleep singing “JESUS loves me” to myself. I have never doubted if GOD was real in my life because I knew from that moment on that HE was real. Continue reading

The Rampage of Disease

18 Jul

Blog post by Saundra P., Team Ethiopia 2012

An orphan is described as a vulnerable child under age 18 who has lost one or both parents. What would cause a child to lose their parents you ask? One orphan causing issue is diseases that lead to death like HIV/AIDS, Malaria, and water borne diseases. Many of these diseases are preventable.

HIV/AIDS is a worldwide epidemic, in which the largest cases, around 22.9 million, occur in Sub-Sahara Africa. AIDS is spread through child abduction, prostitution, and slavery. Orphans are especially vulnerable to contracting HIV/AIDS because they lack the basic needs like food, clothing and shelter. A desperate, abandoned child may turn to prostitution to provide for themselves. A poor, widowed mother may sell her child into slavery to provide for her other children.

Malaria is a disease we do not hear much about in the United States, largely because it was eliminated between 1947 and 1951. In developing countries, Malaria is a prevalent disease that puts 3.3 billion people at risk, which is about half the world’s population. About 90% of deaths caused by malaria occur in Africa among children who are less than five years of age.

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In the Shoes of a Child Soldier

14 Jul

Blog post by Caroline M., Team Ethiopia 2012

Pause for a minute.  Put yourself in the shoes of a child soldier.

You are ten years old. An army comes to your home, puts a gun in your hands and tells you to shoot your family.  If you don’t do it, they will shoot you. After being forced to kill the ones you love, you leave with them to become apart of their army. Day in and day out you are forced to kill and rape innocent people only to hold on to your own life.  You participate in combat, lay mines and explosives, spy, act as decoys and are exposed to sexual slavery. You witness violent deaths and mutilations. You are brainwashed to do nothing but kill and destroy. This is how approximately 300,000 child soldiers live everyday.

Child soldiers are boys and girls who fight in adult wars, missing out on the safe childhood that many of us take for granted.  In 2004, as much as 100,000 children were actively involved in armed conflict in Africa.  These soldiers can be as young as seven.  Below are some alarming statistics.

80% of children aged 8 to 13 in Sierre Leone had suffered the death of a close family member.

74% saw somebody being killed or injured with machetes.

68% saw somebody being burned to death or tortured.

10% of girls have been gang raped.

66% have been in a situation where they expected to die.

Witnessing your parents death, being separated from your family and being forced to participate in violent acts can leave a child scarred.  This may lead to physical and psychological problems such as: general poor health, physical abuse or deprivation, drug addiction, sexual abuse, exploitation and unwanted pregnancy, serious war injuries and mental and emotional trauma.

You can’t pretend this doesn’t exist.  So what are you gonna do?  Spread the word.  Everyone needs to know about this horrible reality.

Caroline resides in Pennsylvania and will be serving with Journey117 this month on Team Ethiopia.  

The Only Reason is Jesus

2 Jul

Blog post by 14 year-old Naomi P., Team Ethiopia 2012

So the big question of the day, “What has happened in your life that has lead you to your heart for orphans?” Well sit down my dears, I will get you some tea and tell you all about it, jk.

I was born in Edmonton, Alberta in 1997 (thrilling facts I know). My parents are Scott and Janet and they are amazing (I was not paid to say that). They have been a huge support and have always done what is best for me, not only their words but also their action always showed me and taught me love.

When I was six or seven, I used to come downstairs to watch our one channel TV (I was really lucky, I got to watch TV, crazy). There was a couple of times when the World Vision show came on. I used to watch it, then cry and cry. I decided that I wanted to help those kids and their families. I pulled my neighbor into it and for a year we saved our money, and told people about what we were doing (and got their money.) Together we raised 300 and something dollars! (We even did a mobile lemonade stand! We were committed!) We gave the money to an organization our friends started when they adopted two Ethiopian boys. The organization is called Love Africa. You can look it up, 6 year old me is still on their website!

Going to Ethiopia and working there, I was convinced that, Ethiopia is where I wanted to be and where God wanted me to be. So, that was great, but how was I going to get there? So I thought about it and prayed about it for two and a half years.  Finally I told my parents and their friends; that was WAY out of my comfort zone, but I did it! So that really triggered something in our community and in our lives. There were several other people in our community who also had dreams about going to Africa or living in Africa or just about Africa in general, but it was never the right time. They were not totally sure what they were supposed to do. When I told them about how I wanted to go to Ethiopia and how I wanted them to take me, (just a small favor) it seemed to them like conformation.

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I Wish I Could Do More

29 Jun

Blog post by Cayley E., Team Ethiopia 2012

I’ve had a heart for children for as long I can remember. Being blessed to grow up in a strong Christian household, I’ve had numerous opportunities to serve and share the love of Christ with children. It was always a joy to work with kids, but my heart was never truly broken for the fatherless until I saw the reality of the situation while working a summer camp.

The camp was set up by a local organization that teams up with Child Protective Services to offer a summer camp experience for the children in the foster care system.  The children that attend are broken, beaten down, and desperate for love.  All campers are under the age of eleven, but the vast majority have experienced more pain in their lives than most of us ever will. It’s heartbreaking to know that I can’t fix their problems. I’m not there to be the solution. If I could, I would gladly open my home to them all! Unfortunately, I can’t. I’m there simply to share the love of Christ and to create positive memories for the children. But, oh how I wish I could do more!

So that is what brings me to Journey117. Several years before attending summer camp, the Lord stirred my heart for Africa. At the time, I didn’t really understand (and I still don’t completely) but He has faithfully opened doors to teach me and prepare my heart for this very trip. I was forever changed by building relationships with the orphans at that summer camp. The Lord gave me a tender heart, which was eager to speak up for those voices that too often go unheard. So why me? Well, why not?

Cayley resides in Texas and will be serving with Journey117 in July on Team Ethiopia.

They Are Just Like My Own

27 Jun

Blog post by Gemma C., Team Ethiopia 2012

When I was in grade 6, I had a class assignment in which I had to make a timeline of my life, concluding with what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote that I wanted to be a missionary. I’m sure I didn’t realize at that time all of what that meant, but I knew three things, God loved me, I wanted to help people, and I really wanted to travel.

I don’t really know why these things have always been in my heart, other than I suppose God put them there. I grew up in a very stable, two-parent, Christian home. My parents have always been very generous with what little they had, and I guess that makes an impact on a kid. For years I worked at bible camps in the summer, and got so much life from that, working with the kids, loving them just for the week they were there.  At university, I majored in International Relations, with the intention of going on the mission field after graduation, or working in Aid and Development. This has always been a desire of mine, and the Travel Bug is embedded deep inside me. I always say to my husband that at times it must be hard to love me, because I have a gypsy heart, always wanting to be on the move.

Things have not turned out the way I had planned. Don’t get me wrong, I love my life, it is just different from what I had envisioned! I got married, finished university, and my husband and I went to work as house parents in a group home for teens with mental illnesses. All of these kids were also wards of the state, taken away from their parents for various reasons, abused and neglected.  Maine was not really my idea of world-travelling, but we were working with those who needed help, with orphans. That was such an intense 18 months, but we felt so limited because it was not a Christian organization, so we felt there was so much we could not help with. We also longed for community for ourselves. We moved back to Cape Breton (that is another story in itself), and ended up working at a Christian-run summer camp for teens with addictions. More orphans, from our own neighborhoods. I absolutely loved it. Then Joe got a job as a youth pastor at a church, more kids who need love. It has been an awesome couple of years, God has given us such a love for our youth, and a deep desire to help them. I am loving life here, but that travel bug inside me is eating me up, haha!

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