Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Child Soldier: When boys and girls are used in war by Jessica Dee Humphreys and Michel Chikwanine

 First person narratives are very powerful and more so first person narratives of harrowing experiences. We know there are conflicts going on all over the world but most of them hardly make the news cycle here in the United States. This site tracks some of them.
The Olympics are in full swing and news of the various medals dominates the news cycles. I was intrigued when I heard about there being a refugee team at the Games for the first time. Someone that I know is from Congo and a short conversation with him lead to me reading about the conflict in his country. Sources indicate that there are some 384, 000 internal refugees.

This book is written for older kids and tweens and gives a brief historical overview mentioning the exploitation by Belgium, the struggle for independence and the political instability leading up to 1993 when the events in the book started.

Like children all over the continent Michel grew up playing soccer, although he and his friends had to make balls out of paper and scraps.  On one random day while he and his friends were on the soccer pitch a rebel militia came to their village and captured Michel and his friends. Soon, Michel is indoctrinated and commits unspeakable acts as a child soldier. After some time he manages to escape and returns to his family but this is just the start.

Later his family flees to a refugee camp before being allowed to go to Canada. He experiences some culture shock and soon realizes that because North American life is so comfortable, people are unaware of the conflicts in other parts of the world. Thus he shares his story by talking to groups far and wide.  Overall the message of the book is inspiring and Michel shares many of his father's life teachings which youth in any part of the world can appreciate and learn from.

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