Topic: Michel Chikwanine (Speaker on his life as a child forced to be a Child Soldier)
I was able to attend a Leadership Conference in London Ontario last year called GSLS (Global Student Leadership Summit) where I heard Michel speak live and he was truly amazing.
"Born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Michel grew up amid the terror of the Great War of Africa. Much of his childhood was ravaged by the death and decay of a war that claimed the lives of 5.8 million people, his father included, and forced him to be a child soldier."
No one can tell his story like him but I'll try. He was out one day after school with his friend who was a few years older than him.
His father had told him to come home right after school because there was a curfew now due to everything going on. He had gone with his friend and many other children to play soccer with a ball that was made of many plastic bags all wrapped together.
While out in the field a truck pulled up and they thought it was the police until shots fired. They'd been taught to lie down if there was danger so the young Michel as he ran looked back and saw his friend lying there and assumed that was right to do. Michel was only like 5.
He was loaded into the truck with many of the other children and eventually unloaded blindfolded in a place they did not know. Then the children were lined up in two rows and their hands were sliced and rubbed with a mixture of drugs and ash to make them crazy.
Then the one row was handed guns and told to fire.(photo above not of Michel)Michel shot and when his blindfold was removed he saw that his friend lay there. The men told him that he could never go home, they'd never accept him.
The kids were used to kill villagers and they were scared into this work. One day while they went out to attack, he didn't know why but he lay down and pretended he was dead then got up later and just ran and ran and ran. Eventually by whatever power he made it to the forest where he eventually recognized where to go and found a building where he dad used to take him for food.
He came home, his father was later kidnapped and then freed. The family ended up fleeing as refugees living in a tent city and the mother went everyday to apply to go to the Americas. Eventually they did, but not before his father died of illness there.
The happy ending for him was getting somewhere safe. He got to the Americas in the winter and when they got out it was snowing. They'd never seen snow and he tried to get the lady on the airplane to let him back in.
Now he speaks about Child Soldiers, he's written a graphic novel, Child Soldier: When Boys and Girls are Used in War.
He's probably the most powerful speaker I've heard talk. If you ever get the chance to listen to him do it.