Wednesday, August 29, 2007

By Elizabeth Sung, Consultant for CCF-Chad

I send my best wishes from N’djamena, Chad!

I went into town yesterday with the DDR program coordinator, Sandra, to help with distribution. CCF’s newest program in Chad is the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) of child soldiers in transit centers. In general, the youth are 11 to 17 years of age. At the transit centers, they receive education and health services among other interventions for approximately three months while CCF collaborates with relevant local and international organizations to arrange for reunification with the boys’ families.

As you can imagine, the former child soldiers have witnessed and may have even caused violence. Working with this population is extremely challenging since many are severely traumatized and some are accustomed to the ways of the military.

Since many of the youth arrive at CCF centers without any clothing and possessions, we helped to distribute basic hygiene items, clothing and shoes to the boys. First the boys were organized into groups according to general size. Then each boy was called up to receive his new possessions. “Présent!” each boy called out as he quickly walked up to the front. As each walked back to his group, he proudly examined his new shoes.

The youngest group of boys sat quietly apart from the rest of the groups, under the shade of the classroom, neatly folding their clothing on the ground, and placing their new possessions into their bags. They contrasted from the older boys who took the clothing, examined it, threw it into their bags, and chattered amongst themselves.

As the boys tried on shoes to check the fit, one of the staff members would call out, “Un 44!” Then Sandra and I would scramble around checking the shoe sizes to find a size 44.
A couple boys modeled their new shirts and shorts for us, twirling around, as the staff and the crowd clapped their hands and laughed.

The boys loved looking at themselves in the photos when I showed the camera screen to them. They pointed to the faces and grinned to themselves. I think that is one reason why we continue to work so hard—they remember how to smile and enjoy themselves. It is a strong sign of their resilience and, hopefully, their ability to reintegrate into society.

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