Former 'forced wife' receives Marsh Award at Tedx summit

Former child soldier & forced wife to receive prestigious award in London at Tedx summit

World Vision ambassador Jerome Flynn says he is ‘changed forever’ after hearing heart-rending stories from war-scarred children in South Sudan.

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Jerome met traumatised children last month on a fact-finding trip organised by international charity World Vision. South Sudan is the world’s youngest country, gaining independence in 2011. The East African country has been convulsed by a five-year long civil war which has killed at least 400,000 people. Over 19,000 children have been conscripted into various armed groups.

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“Children told me about unimaginable horrors they had seen and experienced,” Jerome says. “Some children were kidnapped by armed groups and forced to fight and kill and watch other children get killed for not keeping up. Others fled torched homes and villages and sought refuge in camps for displaced people, with little food and no education. Many lost mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters and were forced to make choices no child should have to make, just to survive.

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"I met families torn apart because of the conflict and talked to parents who had sons and daughters snatched from them,” he continued. At times I found their stories of what they had to endure almost too painful to bear.

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“Yet I also saw hope in a country ripped apart by war. Dedicated World Vision aid workers are helping desperate families stitch their lives together amid the chaos. I was blown away by the resilience of the children, humbled by their spirit, and inspired by their determination to find happiness. 

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“I saw how war costs children their innocence but does not always destroy their childhoods. The bravery of the children I met will stay with me forever.”

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Full-blown conflict is likely to flare up again in South Sudan unless a national army of government and rebel forces is formed by May 12. More children and young people could then be forced into the bush to take up arms or flee the fighting. 

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Jerome says: “South Sudan’s latest peace deal is on a short fuse and the situation is desperate. Help is needed urgently to protect children from further violence. Sadly, there are thousands of children across the world who need support right now. Please give generously to help them.”

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Jerome’s trip forms part of World Vision’s Made for More appeal for funds to protect the world’s most vulnerable children.

 

 

Angela Atim Lakor, a survivor of Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and now a World Vision partner, this week returns to London where she will be honoured for her contribution to building peace, tackling stigma and supporting women and children recovering from war.

Angela will present a Tedx Talk on her experience of war as a child as part of this year’s Whitehall Women event at HMS President in London on Friday 3 November. As part of the event Angela will also receive the Marsh Award for Peace-making and Peace building from the prestigious Wilton Park. She shares the award with fellow human rights campaigner Ms. Fareeda Abbas Rasho Khalaf, a member of the Yazda Yazidi women’s organization.

The infamous LRA militia abducted Angela when she was only 14. She endured sexual violence as part of the LRA's 'forced wives' system for many years. On escaping, Angela was supported at the World Vision Children of War Reintegration Centre in Gulu, Uganda. As a survivor herself she went on to co-found the Watye Ki Gen charity which supports female returnees from the Lord’s Resistance Army and their children - helping them combat the stigma that affects every area of their lives from employment to their children’s education.

World Vision's Children of War Reintegration Centre has helped rehabilitate and reintegrate nearly 15,000 former child soldiers and children born in captivity in the past decade.

Erica Hall, World Vision UK’s Technical Policy Lead on Child Protection, said, “Children are vulnerable in the face of conflict. Recent UN figures show that there were at least 14,500 grave violations against children in armed conflict last year, including recruitment, sexual violence and abductions.”

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