Amidst armed conflicts, a tragically common side-effect is children being abducted into the army. UNICEF provides helpful clarification that this can include abduction or recruitment of children into any capacity in the army—“not only…a child who is taking a direct part in hostilities.”
Abduction decimates many war-torn communities. After sitting with numerous parents who had lost their children to the rebel army or were in perpetual hiding after escaping abduction, our hearts were burdened to do all we could to address this injustice. After making friends with many young men, seeing their eager desire for education and a future apart from entering or hiding from conflict, we sought a homegrown solution.
The Freedom Boys program relocates boys into the city, organizing new and safe living situations for them—often foster housing with a relative. This geographical move frees these young men to focus on their education. The boys are paired with mentors to ensure that they receive holistic care: healthy bodies, minds, and souls.
For most of these boys, their highest aspiration was once running a Baraka (small kiosk shop) or driving a mini-bus. Now, provided with a refuge and an education, they dream of travel, studying at university, becoming teachers, professionals, and leaders in their community. Every Freedom Boy is currently performing within the top five students in their respective classes.
As we met with more and more young men, we realized the need for a solution with a larger scope. Relocating handfuls of young men was effective for them, yet we needed a way to impact entire communities, addressing the crisis of young men surrounded by war with little hope for a good future.