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 “South Sudan”

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. 


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

Another Empowering Women’s Organization

I read almost every solicitation that I receive from a non-profit. I can’t help it. A lot of my time is spent raising funds for San Francisco Hillel, the Jewish Student Center, and I send out my fair share of letter campaigns. 

Women for Women caught my eye for their very personal letter. This is an organization that helps women who have lost everything, often both material and personal, through violence and war. Their primary focus is on women from the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, Rwanda, Afghanistan, and others.

Women for Women are able to :

– offer direct financial support for medicine and food

– provide job training skills and business training

– teach an empowerment program about their rights as women and citizens

The Woman for Women website offers many stories and testimonies. Warning – they can be tough to read. One interesting set of facts that I read includes the following data:

– women reinvest 90% of their income into their family and community compared with 30-40% of men (World Bank study).

– women hire at least one person to help with their businesses and train or mentor on average 4 other women.

– women are 70% of the world’s farmers, produce 90% of the world’s staple food crops, but own less than 2% of the land.

Finally, in the words of one of Zainab Salbi, Founder of Women for Women: “…it’s the Butterfly Revolution in action.  You make a gift of $20 and the impact of your decision is felt thousands of miles away, by a woman whose life has been devastated by war and conflict…

“The Butterfly Revolution is a metaphor for the concept that even small actions…like the fluttering of a butterfly’s wings…can have far-reaching effects. I believe that by taking action, every one of us have a major impact on making the world a better place for women in need.”

Please consider joining me with a $20 gift. You can click here and don’t even need to leave your chair.

Thank you.


Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/ and on Twitter (@alonshalevsf).

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