No Child Should Be A Soldier

Working with Helping Hands

Peace Culture Village and the South Sudan NGO Helping Hands are jointly developing a youth rehabilitation workshop.

Many young people in South Sudan have suffered extreme trauma. Some have been child soldiers. Some have killed. Some have watched comrades die. Some have seen their families or friends killed, and some have been badly injured themselves. All suffer from some level of PTSD, and many are having trouble reintegrating into normal South Sudanese society.

To facilitate their rehabilitation, Peace Culture Village and Helping Hands intend to take as many of these young people as possible to Hiroshima, Japan. There, they will participate with Japanese youth in a workshop designed to help them encounter a safe, warm and loving community within a society more profoundly peaceful than any they have ever known. At the same time, they will shock Japanese youth into realizing that the affluent peace in which they have grown up is not to be taken for granted. Both groups will gain from an in-depth encounter with people so different and yet so similar.

The South Sudanese will be met at Hiroshima Airport and taken by bus to Peace Culture Village, a farm in the mountains two hours from Hiroshima City. After a thorough orientation and several teambuilding sessions, they will travel by bus to Hiroshima. There, they will visit the Peace Memorial Museum and speak with a survivor of the atomic bombing. They will hear lectures and learn about wartime Japan and the effects of the bombing. They will tour the city and meet a variety of people working to make Hiroshima and the world more peaceful.

After experiencing Hiroshima and seeing with their own eyes the ultimate result of violent competition, they will return to Peace Culture Village where they will begin five days of intensive peace education. What is peace? What are the key elements of peace culture? Where does conflict come from? How can conflicts be resolved peacefully?

To augment the intellectual approach to these topics, all participants will be expected to help with farm work, housework, a building project, a social event, or whatever activities Peace Culture Village is engaged in at the time. Working together on physical projects will lead participants into live conflicts that need to be resolved. They will be guided to think more deeply about how human beings should relate to nature. They will also take part in community decision-making. In addition, they will be asked to perform community service, that is, they will do something to help the elderly, play with the children, or in some way serve the wider community around Peace Culture Village.

The last two days of the workshop will be devoted to planning re-entry to home communities. How will they use what they have learned to benefit their families, neighborhoods, schools or employers? The South Sudanese participants will be selected for their interest in and potential for leadership and mediation in their communities. They will be given an extremely valuable experience for free, and they will be expected to give back. Furthermore, the participants will undergo vocational training on skills such as mechanical engineering, plumbing, carpentry, tailoring, welding and metal work in South Sudan. This is to equip them with income generation skills to fight poverty, which is one of main drivers of conflict. Our trainees will become community champions, effective change agents in their societies.

Throughout the project the participants will be mentored by Helping Hands and followed from a distance by Peace Culture Village to keep the experience in Japan alive for as long as possible. Japanese participants will also be expected to implement peace education plans in their communities and to stay in touch with their cohort and staff. The workshop should not end when it’s over.

This workshop will be a powerful, life-changing experience for everyone involved, but none of it will be possible without your help. We need 3 million yen (US$30,000) to bring each group of ten South Sudanese to Japan and offer them the experience described above. And we want to bring as many groups as we can afford. Please help us help the youth of South Sudan. Help us make this program an ongoing reality.


Photo: Unicef US

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