From child soldiers to school children

LIFE FOR KIDS IN THE PHILIPPINE JUNGLE IS NOTHING LIKE HERE IN AUSTRALIA...

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Our kids play with consoles, go to clean, safe schools and are mostly sheltered from the many horrors that take place in this broken world.

But for Ali and Dallah, friends from West Mindanao in the Philippines, their childhood is completely different.

Ali and Dallah both grew up in the army – they are children of military commanders. They are used to violence. They know how to handle weapons. They were well on their way to becoming fully fledged child soldiers.

Fighting in the army seems to be the only option for many families in this region. For decades, conflict has raged between five different ethnic groups, and between these groups and the government. Many younger people fight without any real idea of why.

Ali and Dallah would have followed down this path themselves... but thanks to the generous support of people like you, The Freedom Project has stepped in.

The Freedom Project supports a school which welcomes students from all five ethnic groups. In addition to learning normal academic skills – reading, writing and mathematics – the students are taught tolerance, respect and how to appreciate different cultures.

Without this, these kids would be slaves to the attitudes of previous generations, trapped in a cycle of conflict. But now, kids like Ali and Dallah will grow up learning how to interact differently – learning the values of friendship, respect, love and peace.

Tragically, there are over 45 million people – like Ali and Dallah – currently trapped in different forms of modern slavery with two million being children.

That’s why, every day, The Freedom Project is hard at work across South and South East Asia, fighting against all forms of slavery – whether child soldiers, trafficked sex workers or enslaved domestic workers or beggars. We seek to prevent slavery, rescue those trapped, and restore them to safe and peaceful lives, families and communities.

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For Ali and Dallah, their involvement with The Freedom Project has been completely life changing.

They have been placed with a foster family, enabling them to attend a local school. Their foster parents are helping to mentor them. They and their birth family are involved in trauma counselling, promoting healing and encouraging the whole family and community to resolve disputes without violence.

Ali, reflecting on what he has learned, says, “Each one will face consequences for our actions. So we should always do what is right... Violence won’t resolve violence.”

Ali has learnt a vital lesson that will transform the next generation. He and Dallah are free from being enslaved as child soldiers – and their new understanding will go with them as they grow and become adults, responsible in their communities.

But best of all, right now Ali and Dallah are just free to be kids – playing, learning and making friends.

This story originally appeared in our June 2018 Appeal and helped inspire our supporters to donate over $40,000! Thank you! 
If you would still like to support our work, you can do so here

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Marissa Smithson