Study Shows Benefits of Child-Soldier Reintegration

A recent study published in Pediatrics points to the long-lasting payoffs to treating depression and anxiety in former child soldiers and other youth impacted by the civil war in Sierra Leone. 

Lead author and director of the Research Program of Global Health and Population at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Health, Theresa Betancourt, commented on the highlights of the study's findings:


[quote]We were surprised to see the large role that targeting symptoms of hopelessness and depression played across many years of observing war-affected youth. When offering health and other services for war-affected youth, we cannot leave mental health out of the equation."[/quote]


The Goldin Institute continues to stay engaged in this issue, and we are pleased to see that this study demonstrates the long-term benefits of providing reintegration programs for former child combatants, like our work through the National Partnership for Child Soldier Reintegration in Uganda and Colombia.

Please see our Child Soldier Map to find out more.

Goldin Institute Successfully Returns to Uganda

This June, Institute co-founders Diane Goldin and Travis Rejman returned to Uganda to participate in our first ever cross-continental Child Soldier Reintegration and Reconciliation Training Workshops. Because of her work in developing and using the ESPERE methodology in her native Colombia, our Global Associate Lissette Mateus Roa was the natural candidate to lead the training in Uganda.

Before bringing this project to Africa, Lissette worked closely with our partner and her advisor, Fr. Leonel Narvaez designing and successfully testing the ESPERE methodology to engage local communities by using schools as centers for reconciliation for former child soldiers in the region. We highlighted their work and what this looks like on-the-ground in Colombia in previous reports.

To best adapt the training to our colleagues in Africa, an intensive eight-day workshop was conducted wherein participants learned about the key concepts of forgiveness and reconciliation, and obtained tools to carry these ideas forward within their communities.

In all, Lissette successfully trained 16 individuals made up of child combatants, teachers, crisis counselors and community members. These participants represented five different regions of Northern Africa and because each certified trainer committed to individual action plans upon completion, the outreach within their communities will impact many more potential trainees. In short, Lissette has left a "teaching tree" model in place that we hope to see expand and carry forth the ESPERE program within the region.


[quote]My expectations were different than the reality in Africa, normally the mass media shows to the world the bad things about Africa, I was expecting some kind of hungry people, in a dusty or dirty environment, waiting for water and food. But, I realized (once there and on the ground) that they have needs, but also they have so many good things that the mass media doesn't talk about: they are a happy and generous people, (there are) amazing buildings for education, they are bilinguals and have spoken their own language and English since they were kids, they have some kind of sense of community that we have lost in our developed societies, and is highly necessary for healing our societies – they are ahead of the game in that sense. I realized we have as many things to learn from them as they can learn from us. I'm not saying everything is perfect, I'm just saying that not everything is bad, and there is great hope for the future because of the people. Moreover, I was expecting a very rough place but it was a beautiful place for the workshop."[/quote]

- Global Associate and program facilitator, Lissette Mateus Roa


Lissette's excerpted comments above are from a conversation with her upon her return from Africa. The full interview can be found here.

In coming months, we look forward to sharing the results of the action plans established by the trainees at Lissette's ESPERE workshop, as they carry out the mission to bring societal changes to their own communities in Northern Africa. If you would like to become more involved supporting this project, find out how you can help.

[slide] [img path="images/slideshow/full/uganda2014_1.jpg"]Co-founder's Diane Goldin and Travis Rejman meet with Everest Okwonga, the Principal at St. Janani Luwum Vocational Training Centre[/img] [img path="images/slideshow/full/uganda2014_2.jpg"]Co-founder's Diane Goldin and Travis Rejman meet with students at a trade school for former child combatants in Gulu[/img] [img path="images/slideshow/full/uganda2014_3.jpg"]Co-founder Diane Goldin meets with students in a Gulu classroom during the Institute's June2014 trip to the region to take part on child soldier reintegration efforts[/img][img path="images/slideshow/full/uganda2014_4.jpg"]Participants of a workshop conducted by Global Associate Lissette Mateus Roa take part in one of the exercises teaching 'forgiveness'[/img][img path="images/slideshow/full/uganda2014_5.jpg"] Global Associate Lissette Mateus Roa (bottom left) and her group of ESPERE students. Also included is friend and colleague and Associate emeritus Dr. Dorcas Kiplagat (standing 5th from right)[/img] [img path="images/slideshow/full/uganda2014_6.jpg"]Participants of the ESPERE workshop during a training session[/img][img path="images/slideshow/full/uganda2014_7.jpg"]Global Associate Lissette Mateus Roa (standing) leads a training session in Gulu[/img][img path="images/slideshow/full/uganda2014_9.jpg"]Global Associate Lissette Mateus conducts an exercise with participants of the ESPERE workshop in June 2014[/img][img path="images/slideshow/full/uganda2014_15.jpg"]Global Associate Lissette Mateus (sitting foreground) leads her ESPERE training group[/img][img path="images/slideshow/full/uganda2014_28.jpg"]Co-founder Diane Goldin meets with students at the St Janani Vocational School. The School is made up of mostly former child soldiers learning new skills (like carpentry in this classroom) to rejoin civilian life.[/img] [img path="images/slideshow/full/uganda2014_27.jpg"]The workshop attended by former child combatants[/img][img path="images/slideshow/full/uganda2014_34.jpg"]Institute co-founder Diane Goldin meets with Ajok Dorah - a psychologist specializing in giving counsel to former child combatants returning to their communities.[/img][/slide]

Philippines Update: Adopt a School of Peace Summit

Children Living in Conflict-Torn Region Would Benefit Directly From Proposed "Peace School"

As part of her ongoing work in Mindanao, Global Associate Dr. Susana Salvador-Anayatin hosted the Adopt a School of Peace summit in Cotabato City, Philippines on Mar. 23, 2011. Community leaders are engaging government officials, teachers, members of the military, former child soldiers and grassroots groups to create an elementary School of Peace and peace-studies curriculum for children living amidst the ongoing conflict in Mindanao.

The participants of the Adopt a School of Peace conference gather for a group photo.

In attendance were sixteen key influence makers and concerned organizers from the communities they serve, including former child soldier and current Goldin Institute Advisor Khanappi K. Ayao who welcomed the participants and set the tone for the day with his introduction:


[quote] It is our hope that this meeting will yield a positive response to pursue the project, Adopt a School of Peace in order to facilitate the long-awaited peace and development in our Province."[/quote]


Naguib G. Sinarimbo, the Executive Secretary to the Office of the Regional Governor at ARMM addresses the conference.Also welcoming the attendees was Naguib G. Sinarimbo, the Executive Secretary and a direct representative for the Regional Governor of Mindanao (the Honorable Ansaruddin A. Adiong). He specifically thanked Dr. Anayatin and her work on behalf of the Goldin Institute for initiating the project, reminding the participants that "more than any other region in the Philippines, the (Mindanao) Province is an area most in need for all forms of assistance. Any undertaking that will support the regional government in attaining peace is welcome."

The School of Peace project has six specific objectives that would form the cornerstone for the proposed school:

  • To develop modules for children in public and private schools in Mindanao that would promote non-discrimination; respect for other's beliefs, opinions and cultural practices, and an appreciation of the plurality of cultures and ideas in Mindanao.
  • To teach children conflict resolution by teaching them with ways to work out differences and conflicts using peaceful means.
  • To integrate the modules into relevant and appropriate core academic subjects.
  • To develop and implement training courses for teachers to prepare them for using the modules in the classrooms.
  • To equip teachers and parents with the knowledge and skills that they can use to train fellow teachers and parents in using the peace modules.
  • To establish the mechanisms that will ensure the sustainability of the project.

Some background of the Province and the current atmosphere for conflict was summarized and gave reference to how the six objectives should be thought of when considering the overall approach to the Peace School plan:

In the context of Mindanao, Philippines, a tri-people land, differences in culture and ideology abound. There is a beauty in the differences if each would respect each other. But reality paints a different picture. A child may hear a slur about Christians or Muslim or Indigenous Peoples from his or her family. He or she may even be warned against relating to those different from them – warning their children that the others cannot be trusted. The teachers themselves, who also grew up hearing the same, sometimes reinforce those beliefs and fears in school.

But we believe that the school is still the primary venue to learn good values, morals, and positive life skills. These should be venues that would promote respect, acceptance, an an appreciation of the differences of beliefs, culture and opinions. These are venues where cooperation and constructive conflict resolution should be practiced and upheld.

It is in this light that we are proposing to adopt a School of Peace – elementary level, located at a nearby conflict-affected area in the Maguinanao Province in Mindanao, Philippines. Modules to be developed will guide teachers on how to discuss the concepts of peace, human rights and conflict resolution in their classrooms. The main part of the Modules leads teachers to explore and reflect on the concepts and issues related to peace building.

Six topics to be introduced as essential to building a Culture of Peace:

  • Achieving Personal Peace
  • Dismantling Structural Violence
  • Respecting Human Rights
  • Looking to the past to find Peace Models
  • Selecting Peaceful Ways in Dealing with Conflict
  • Exploring the Relationship between Nature and Peace