Meet Dixon: Dixon was 12 years old when he was taken with his brother by Charles Taylor’s forces, the NPFL, in 1993, though not before witnessing the murder of his father and the rape of his mother by the same forces. Echoing the dilemma faced by many young adolescents during the war Dixon told us, “we didn’t have our own way, so we fought.” Dixon managed to escape the conflict in 1996, when he made his way to the Ivory Coast and then to Buduburam, Ghana in 2001. He is now a teacher in the settlement but would like to continue his own education, as “education transforms the mind, and it takes human resources to develop a country, people to rebuild Liberia.”
Meet Aloysius: Aloysius was ten years old in 1992, when he was abducted in Grand Gedeh County. He was placed in a Small Boys Unit (SBU), consisting of about 25 boys ranging from the age of approximately 7-13. Because Aloysius is a Krahn, one of the 16 main ethnic groups in Liberia, but was taken by Gio rebels, he was forced to cook, clean and do the wash for the forces when he was not actively fighting; the Gio/Krahn conflict took place along ethnic lines and is a result of the former President Samuel Doe who gave preferential treatment to his own ethnic group, the Krahn. Aloysius was able to escape in 1996, during an attack in Maryland County. He made his way through the Ivory Coast and arrived in Buduburam in 2006, where he is the Officer in Charge for VECSAOL.
Meet Houston: A former child soldier and member of VECSAOL, Houston has earned a certificate in Community Health, First Aid and General Medicine and managed to pay for his school by fixing bricks in the settlement and buy living with friends or sleeping in churches. In 2002, he was hired as the Chief Medical Record Officer at the clinic in Buduburam settlement, where he worked until July of 2006. During his tenure, he was consistently confronted by staff members or patients who would argue that he should not be working there on account of the fact that he is a former child soldier. He was later accused of being insulting to the staff and patients, resulting in his dismissal, though he believes that he was dismissed due to his status as an ex-combatant. Houston has not been able to find another job, though he has helped to start an after-school program in the local vicinity. Unfortunately, cases like this are frequent and likely to continue without the proper education and sensitization of the community regarding reintegration of former child soldiers.
Meet Brocks: In 1990, at the start of the war, Brocks was 13 years old and his sister was 15 years old. His sister befriended a young rebel in town, who helped his family get some food. Shortly thereafter, this young man took Brocks with him to Kataka to train him to fight; Brocks followed, believing that his family would be guaranteed safety if he were to fight with the rebels, he wanted to be able to provide food and money for his family, to protect them. He stayed with the rebels until 1994, when he went to the Ivory Coast and has been in Buduburam since 2001. Brocks still has family in Liberia who would like him to go home to them, the same family that he fought to protect. Sadly, the only way he knew to protect them has caused him to remain separated from him loved ones, as many former child soldiers like himself are too concerned about revenge killings to return to their country.