Monday, June 06, 2005

ACTION FOR CHILDREN IN CONFLICT Here Are Two Of Their Great Programs

In 2000 Action For Children In Conflict (AfC) started its Action for Child-Mothers in Sierra Leone. This program works with child-mothers, the most vulnerable victims of the civil war that raged for ten years in Sierra Leone. Helping girls that were captured, sometimes as young as 12, and abused in every manner (physically, sexually, psychologically) by rebel troops, this project seeks to enable this group of girls to recover from the damage inflicted on them during the war. Counseling is provided, along with basic education and skills training to help them rebuild their lives.

Designated by the UN in 2000 as the "world's poorest country," Sierra Leone was devastated by a war, but is now in the process of rebuilding itself. Millions have lost their homes and loved ones, but the young girls who were captured and impregnated during their most formative years, are among those who have suffered the most.

AfC is trying to help these girls to overcome these barriers of emotion trauma and lack of education and begin to reconstruct their lives by teaching them skills in order to provide for themselves and their babies.

One of the programs that raised funds for Action for Child-Mothers was Sierra Leone Day 2004 in the UK. Funds raised were used to provide counseling, teach basic literacy and numeracy and trades skills to 250 girls around the country. The girls choose the trade skill they wish to learn and receive six months of training. Some of the skills include: tailoring, tailoring, gara tie-dye and batik; hairdressing; office skills and maternity and child health. In the alternative, they may choose formal education as well.

All of the girls are given business training in order to help them employ their skills effectively and to their best benefit.


Another horror of the civil war in Sierra Leone was the use of amputation as a weapon of terror by both factions. This practice left hundreds of people trying to survive with only one arm or one leg. Many of the victims were young men who, although they were not involved in the conflict, were targeted in order to prevent them fighting for the other side.

The war has ended but a group of boys and young men and boys who suffered amputations have banded together to form the Single Leg Amputee Sports Club (SLASC). This club has over 30 team members and is recognized by the Sierra Leone Football Association (SLFA) as the unofficial Amputee Football Team of Sierra Leone. AfC's web site states : "All players have one leg apart from the goalkeeper who only has one arm (to make it fair!)." They practiced and play every week, which, according to AFC, helps heal the wounds of their trauma and facilitates their reintegration into the community.

The team was originally formed when the players all lived in the Freetown Amputee Camp. However, this camp is being scaled down (as the Government wants the land back) and many amputees are being repatriated to the provinces. While there are still approximately 30 members in the Club; after repatriation programs removed some of them, only 20 members still live in Freetown. The players in Freetown practice twice a week, but those outside of town have difficulty finding transportation.

SLASC is a non-Governmental, non-profit organization that aims to foster hope for war-amputees that "all is not lost" despite living with disability. The Club was introduced to AfC when Dee Malchow, a single leg amputee from the USA came to Sierra Leone on a mission trip in January 2001.

In 2002 AfC began providing support, training, equipment and logistics to the Club. And in 2003, brought them to the UK for 14 days in the month of August in order to raise awareness of the plight of the people of Sierra Leone.

AfC is also assisting with transportation costs for those who live outside of Freetown to come to the city for practice. AfC hopes, at some point to establish associate clubs in the provinces.

One of the aims of the project is to raise sufficient funding and awareness so that AfC can run skills training for the amputee community as a whole as well as for the SLASC. This is because while some of the amputees attend school, many others make a living from petty trading.

AfC also has projects in Tanzania as well as in Ireland and the UK.

A trip to their web site to get more details about what they are doing is well worth the effort. You can find them at:

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