In 2014, Thomas Cook responded to an emergency appeal by Child Soldiers International with a £25,000 donation. Over the last couple of years, this donation has been used to support children suffering in areas of conflict throughout Africa.
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, this donation has been used to help send former girl soldiers back to school, so they can begin to experience some aspects of normal childhood. The reason many of these children were forced into becoming child soldiers was that they could not afford school fees, which left them vulnerable to being forced down this path.
Many were left as outcasts because of this, and claimed it would be better to stay and fight with the army than to return home and risk rejection from their families. The charity works to provide school fees, catch-up classes, shoes and exercise books. Classes began just the other month, one girl said: “I didn’t know I would find my way back to school this year. I thank all the kind people who are supporting us. Really, I am so happy.”
In the Central African Republic (CAR), the story is similar. Nearly every armed group recruit and use child soldiers. UNICEF estimated that the number of children – some as young as eight – recruited during the crisis, could be as high as 10,000. Child Soldiers International travelled to the country this summer to launch the report; “A Thousand Lives to Repair”, and to advise government authorities and community organisations on measures to better protect children from military recruitment.
They are now organising training sessions on children’s rights, for government officials and armed and security forces to tackle the problem at its source – preventing children from being recruited in the first place. At the same time, they are supporting local organisations and community groups to continue this vital work. Their aim is to build a stronger, more sustainable resistance to child soldier recruitment. Although incredible progress has been made, there is still a long way to go to ensure a normal childhood for as many children as possible.
Thomas Cook Children’s Charity is proud to support Child Soldiers International in their incredible efforts to improve the lives of children and the communities in which they live. If you’d like to help the charity continue their positive work, you can donate at our Thomas Cook Children’s Charity website.