Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Archive for the tag “NGOs”

Child Soldiers

Last week, I posted about Emmanuel Jal who was a child soldier in South Sudan and has become a famous hip-hop singer and tireless social activist. I also posted about an amazing British woman, Emma McCune, who rescued over 150 children being used as child soldiers.

This stimulated me to read up more about war children, or child soldiers. There is a stunning estimate of over 300,000 trained children fighting in over 50 conflicts around the world. Emmanuel Jal recounts his story in War Child – A Child Soldier’s Story and there is the more famous – A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah. After watching Beah on Jon Stewart’s Daily Show, we immediately bought his book, more to show recognition to a fine young man than a desire to read. I couldn’t find that interview, but this one is very good

There is an organization dedicated to abolish the use of children as soldiers. War Child International believes that “Children and young people have the right to grow up free from fear, violence, and to develop their full potential and contribute to a peaceful future for themselves and others.”

Their mission: War Child International exists to create the conditions that will fulfill the protection, development and survival rights for children and young people who are living with or recovering from the effects of armed conflict. We believe in the power of children and young people, and so will ensure they participate in decisions which affect their lives so that their voices will be heard and their contributions made to count.

This is a cause we do not see in the West unless some exceptional young person like Jal or Beah come to light. But it is an unacceptable phenomenon and has no place in a civilized world. It must stop now. 

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Alon Shalev writes social justice-themed novels and YA epic fantasy. He swears there is a connection. His latest books include: Unwanted Heroes and At The Walls Of Galbrieth. Alon tweets at @alonshalevsf and @elfwriter

Emma McCune

Last week, I posted about Emmanuel Jal, who was forced to become a child soldier in South Sudan and has gone on to become a famous hip-hop singer and tireless social activist.

Jal was rescued by Emma McCune, who I discovered was a remarkable woman. Emma was born in India in 1964, but brought up in the UK where she graduated from the University of London. In 1985, at the age of 21, Emma flew to Australia and back in a single-engine, light aircraft with a friend.

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Two years later, she went to Sudan, then in a civil war to volunteer for the British organization Volunteer Services Overseas. She was forced to return to England the following year but by 1989 she managed to return, this time working for Street Kids International, which founded or re-opened more than 100 village schools in South Sudan.

She met and married Riek Machar, one of two leading South Sudan guerrilla commanders, and worked to promote his organization after Street Kids International fired her. She died in a car crash, pregnant, in 1992. Emma’s mother, Maggie C, published her story in Till the Sun Grows Cold, and journalist Deborah Scroggins wrote an unauthorized biography of her called Emma’s War.

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Emma is seen as a controversial figure because of her marriage, but she unequivocably worked to save more than 150 war children in Sudan including hip hop artist Emmanuel Jal. At the APF conference that I attended, he performed his tribute to an incredibly brave woman: “Emma McCune” was recorded for his 2008 album Warchild.

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Alon Shalev writes social justice-themed novels and YA epic fantasy. He swears there is a connection. His latest books include: Unwanted Heroes and At The Walls Of Galbrieth. Alon tweets at @alonshalevsf and @elfwriter.  

Emmanuel Jal – Child Soldier, Hip-Hop Artist, Hero

I had the honor to meet world recognized Hip-Hop artist, Emmanuel Jal, at the Association for Professional Fundraisers conference last week. Jal is from South Sudan and was taken and trained as a child soldier. His father joined the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) and, when he was about seven years old, soldiers loyal to the government killed his mother. 

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A number of boys decided to try and escape and in their three month trek he saw many of his friends die. A British aid worker, Emma McCune rescued him. Jal was 11 years old then and McCune adopted him and smuggled him to Kenya, where Emmanuel attended school in Nairobi. McCune died in a road accident a few months later, but her friends (Madeliene Bunting and Anna Ledgard) helped Emmanuel to continue his studies. However, after McCune died, her husband Machar did not allow Emmanuel to stay with him, and the boy was forced to live in the slums. 

images-8Jal explained how he discovered music, how it became a refuge, a way to process and express what he had gone through and as a powerful tool for both the spiritual and political.

Today he is a famous Hip-Hop artist, known around the world. But he has never forgotten his past and is a tireless ambassador and activist for social justice and human rights. He broadcasts his message of peace and equality through his music and through various NGOs he has founded and involved himself with.

I chose to show this tribute that Emmanuel wrote in memory of Emma McCune, and preferred a live version over the studio one, even though the quality is not great. But it shows his energy and presence.

And he had 4,000 people at my conference (the majority, I am guessing not into Hip Hop) on their feet answering his call for peace. Emmanuel Jal has every right to be bitter and cynical. Instead he is a visionary: “I’m a war child / I believe I’ve survived for a reason / To tell my story, to touch lives.”

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Alon Shalev writes social justice-themed novels and YA epic fantasy. He swears there is a connection. His latest books include: Unwanted Heroes and At The Walls Of Galbrieth. Alon tweets at @alonshalevsf and @elfwriter.

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