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Journals - From Child Soldier to Man of Peace

Since 1981, Global Education Motivators (GEM) has been providing excellent opportuities for young people to engage in dialogue about human rights and human responsibility. Denis Okema, a former child soldier and human rights activist from Uganda, attends Chestnut Hill College, studying for his Masters' degree in Administration of Human Services. He also works with GEM to dialogue with young people about his experiences as a young boy in Uganda when he was abducted by a rebel group in 1979 and forced to become a child soldier for over six months. He escaped and went on to become active in Uganda's Peoples Congress. His story is incredible and complex and the students of the Contemporary Issues through Videoconferencing course, along with freshman from Ms. Menake's World History Honors classes, listened to Denis's story and asked him questions about his life and his courage.

Briana found these videos about Denis for the class: 

Briana "Denis can still recall how he was captured and forced to become a child solider. He told us how children are influenced to join the rebels' army because they are brainwashed to believe that the rebels are stronger and they will prevail. Children are also easier to be indoctrinated, manipulated, and drugged leading to abductions. Children are often brainwashed to such extremes that they are told to kill all of their family and they will. The rebels want them to do this so the army becomes their only home and they never leave. It was crazy to hear Denis talk about the effect all of this has on children. He said that they can never live a normal lie because they are so damaged. The constantly need support and don't know any alternative living styles so they constantly live in fear. It was scary to hear Denis say that these children see a lot more than the average person and they see a lot of things that no human let alone any child should see. Denis told one story about a child who was able to get out of the rebels' army but every time he would constantly turn on the water and watch it flow because it comforted him. The child did this because it reminded him of constant blood flowing that he has grown so accustomed to. Hearing this is heartbreaking because it just shows how easily the innocence of children can be taken away and shows just how scary the world can be."  -Briana
For more information on child soldiers, please see:
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