The first critical step in caring for children in armed conflict is fairly obvious: rescue. We diplomatically (without military force) negotiate the release of these children by building relationships with the armed groups that use them and by investing in what they believe is important for their communities. In most cases, these groups highly value education, which has opened doors for us to rescue more children and prevent many children from becoming involved in the conflict.
Once we rescue a child, the not-so-glamorous work of walking them through a process of healing begins. One of the most immediate needs is physical healing, as many children come to us in very bad health, but emotional healing is also a vital part of caring for those rescued. This involves a long-term commitment on our part. We provide a stable, loving, family environment to the children and commit to mentoring them through their development as young adults.
People often ask us why we don’t relocate the children from their home countries to safer locations. We are often tempted to do so, but we realize that the only way these children are going to rise up as the next generation of leaders in their societies is for them to maintain their cultural identity. We provide them with an outstanding K-12 education, as well as vocational training and university preparation in some cases, and walk with them until they are healthy, independent adults.
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