The world watched as Liberian kids as young as 10 years old were exploited as armed combatants. Under threat of death, they committed terrible acts of violence against the Liberian society. Many turned to substance abuse to cope with their experiences. In partnership with IDEFOC, our program named Botanical Reintegration Village aims to provide groups of former child soldiers a three-month program to help them recover from their trauma and obtain the skills necessary for social reintegration.
During the two Liberian Civil Wars, children were recruited as soldiers and forced to fight rather than obtain an education. They were left with deep psychological wounds and drastically limited opportunities, which they treat with narcotics and alcohol. Rather than returning to their families, they were ostracized as irredeemable addicts. Liberia will never fully stabilize until former child soldiers have gained access to their human rights and begun to reintegrate with the Liberian society.
The Botanical Reintegration Village provides former child soldiers with the necessary skills for social reintegration. First, counselling and medical care reduce war trauma, eliminating personal obstacles to reintegration. Next, vocational training and community outreach help remove social barriers to reintegration. Finally, human rights workshops educate former child soldiers about their role in society and encourage them to take a more active role in humanitarian efforts across Liberia.
As the Botanical Reintegration Village is replicable, our long-term goal is the empowerment of all Liberian former child soldiers. 95 former child soldiers are at the moment in our residential facility in Little Bassa and 19 participants completed our program and left us to start their working life and take their place in society. Removing personal and social barriers to integration is a crucial step towards equal access to human rights and a more stable future for Liberia.