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Ishmael Beah was a child soldier in Sierra Leone when UNICEF helped send him toward a different future.
"I was 12 years old and on the way to a talent show when I learned from people covered in blood-stained clothes, carrying their children’s lifeless bodies, that our village in Sierra Leone had been attacked by rebels."
Ishmael Beah trembles when he recalls the horror of being a child trapped in one of the deadliest modern-day armed conflicts. "I had no desire to survive, because I had lost everything."
Watch Ishamel Beah tell his story:
Beah, a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, has recounted his story many times and in many countries, to some of the most influential people in the world — as well as to children who have experienced the horrors of being forced to fight in a war. His 2008 memoir, A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier, became a bestseller.
"My family was killed in the war, and I ended up in a military camp, enlisted as a soldier. It was over two years later — and after I’d grown to shoot someone as routinely as drinking a glass of water — that I was finally rescued. With the help of UNICEF, I’ve been able to help other former child soldiers."
UNICEF works to free child soldiers and return them to their families, caring for their physical and mental health, delivering life skills training and pointing them towards a positive future.
Since the mid-1980s, UNICEF has helped secure their release in more than a dozen countries including Afghanistan, Colombia, Liberia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Somalia and South Sudan. More than 100,000 children have been successfully reintegrated into their communities. #childrennotsoldiers