Sierra Leone

Child victims of civil war in Sierra Leone

Helping child victims of Sierra Leone's civil war is the aim of the Red Cross' Child Advocacy and Rehabilitation (CAR) project.

Sierra Leone suffered a decade of civil war until 2002 and many children witnessed or experienced atrocities. "Many were abducted, conscripted or raped," says Victor Fornah from the Sierra Leone Red Cross, "These boys and girls are accustomed to fighting and shooting. If they were left to their own devices, there could well be a resurgence in violence."

The CAR project provides children up to the age of 18 with numeracy and literacy lessons. It aims to reintegrate the younger children into mainstream education, while the older teenagers are taught additional skills to help them become self-sufficient.

"Those aged 14-18 can learn brick laying, carpentry, tailoring and handicrafts. After the programme, we help them find apprenticeships to use what they've learnt," says Victor.

Counselling is also a key aspect of the programme. "Some children have witnessed attacks or run from gunshots. We get them to open up and let them talk," he says.

So far, the four CAR centres in Sierra Leone have helped 1,200 children. Each child that passes through the programme and starts earning a living has a positive impact on their local community.

"Communities vowed those children would never be allowed to come back. They think these children will never do anything beneficial. So we work with communities, raising awareness of what we're doing," says Victor.

"They will say the Red Cross has helped me be what I am today. It's about letting these children grow up and contribute to society."

The British Red Cross has provided £30,000 to fund the Sierra Leone programme to date and hopes to contribute a further £90,000 by the end of this year.