Looking out of the SOS Family Centre, refugee camp -…
SOS Children's Villages to extend child soldiers project in southern Sudan
Looking out of the SOS Family Centre, refugee camp - EP Darfur
SOS Children's Villages to extend child soldiers project in southern Sudan
14/04/2005 - An estimated 4,000 underage children are still enlisted as child soldiers in Sudan, where a January 2005 peace agreement marked the end of a 21-year north-south civil war in the African country. But even when these children are freed, their reintegration into communities is often problematic and hampered by their past histories as child soldiers.
Over the past eight months, SOS Children's Villages, together with the ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross) and local authorities, has been operating a reintegration project for former child soldiers in southern Sudan. Under this programme, situated in Malakal, some 280 underage children were so far reunified with their families.
Following official requests from authorities, this joint programme will be extended and it is planned that a further 200 to 300 former soldiers will be reintegrated into their communities in the future. Eventually, this project will be transformed into an SOS Social Centre for children and families in need.
A large majority of these children were recruited by force when they were as young as eight years of age, to fight in a civil war which raged for more than two decades and claimed more than two million lives. A further four million were reported to have fled from their homes.
Hundreds of these children, who were either demobilised or fled the rebel Sudanese People's Liberation Army (SPLA), found their way to Malakal. SOS Children's Villages looks after these children, providing them with basic necessities such as nutrition, medication and clothes and, above all, with leisure activities which serve to prepare them for a smooth social reintegration.
In addition to the reintegration programme for child soldiers, SOS Children's Village is also operating an SOS Family Centre at the Abu Shok refugee camp in the conflict-ravaged Darfur region, where hundreds of children and single mothers are receiving basic necessities and trauma therapy.
This project in Darfur will also be expanded to include a second SOS Family Centre. Both centres will be expanded to include so-called "safe areas" where young girls and single mothers can find protection from the high incidence of rape at Abu Shok. Within these areas, mothers will care for their own children as well as for other orphaned and unaccompanied children.
SOS Children's Villages has been carrying out humanitarian work in Sudan for the past 27 years and today operates two children's villages in Khartoum and Malakal, which were founded in 1978 and 2002 respectively. The facility in Khartoum includes an SOS Kindergarten, SOS School for primary and secondary education and an SOS Vocational Training Centre.
In addition, SOS Children's Villages has recently inaugurated a school and social centre in Umbada. The school here is currently providing three shifts of classes for 45 children per shift and may even be extended to three shifts in the near future.
Historic photos of SOS CV Byumba Rwanda.
Christmas in SOS Children's Village Byumba
Only adults are interested in the religious character of Christmas, which is a fete celebrating the birth of God's son. For the children, Christmas is the most awaited moment of the year because, it is seen as a period of joy, celebrations, good meals and presents. In SOS Children's Village Byumba, the countdown to Christmas has already begun, and arrangements are being taken so that Christmas preparations could begin earlier.
In Rwanda, generally, the Christmas fever starts blowing by the end of November. The weeks leading up to Christmas are the biggest shopping weeks of the year, this is why the SOS mothers prefers doing most of their shopping before Christmas day. These shoppings, as usual, are particularly centred on clothes and toys because their prices increase as one gets closer to this special period. They usually buy toys after receiving a Christmas wish list, where each child tells what she/he needs as Christmas gift. For 2004, nobody knows at the moment which gifts will be bought for the children because the Christmas Wish Lists are not yet made. One will have to wait until mid November.
The decoration is part of the preparations which start by 15 December. Usually, a beautiful tree is decorated in the middle of the yard which illuminates the whole SOS Children's Village. In the family houses, each SOS mother decorates a Christmas tree, according to her ability in making her house the best decorated. The big decoration (that of the tree in the middle of the village) is generally confided to the kindergarten teachers who make paper chains, paper balls and paper flowers, in addition to ornaments, Christmas lights, snowballs, fake snow and plastic tinsels which are bought in the shops. Very often, the decoration of the external Christmas tree attracts the children more than the one which is made inside the houses.
Last year, some youths have been invited by a neighbouring school for carols singing. But, very often, Christmas carols take place in the village. It involves songs, sketches and poems. Children gather in a small choir to sing carols and Christmas songs for the pleasure of their SOS mothers, "SOS aunts (family helpers)", the village directors, many others "SOS co-workers" and the guests.
There has been a tradition of Christmas carolling in SOS Children's Village Byumba, in which groups of children go from house to house, singing carols, for which they are often rewarded with drinks, cakes, sweets and chocolate. This has been also seen in Kigali and Gikongoro.
The Christmas party is always held on 25 December, like in other countries worldwide. The celebrations takes place generally within the SOS Children's Village where things start with an ecumenical prayer, gathering the children, their SOS mothers, "SOS aunts (family helpers)", the village director and the invited friends. Even if SOS mothers and their children go to a restaurant, have a picnic or are at the beach, all the festive ceremonies are done in the village. This is all the more real as Christmas is known as the fete of the family and gathering. After the prayer, the "SOS families" go to the multipurpose hall to share the Christmas meal, where the rich and varied menu often consists of salad, roasted lamb, beef with tomato sauce, chicken, goat, beside every day foods like rice, beans, fried potatoes or small peas.
Last year, while SOS mothers were dancing in the afternoon with co-workers and the guests, the children took an initiative which was full of surprises. Dressed in their new beautiful clothes, they went to visit the needy children from the surrounding areas and gave them the gifts they have collected about five months ago, without their SOS mothers' knowledge. The village director, Festus Ndikumana, reported to be deeply touched by this great sense of love, sharing and maturity. The atmosphere was practically the same in SOS Children's Village Kigali, where the children together with their SOS mothers decided to celebrate Christmas with the poor of the surrounding areas. On the eve, they went to the surrounding houses with firewood, clothes, foods, jerry cans of water, cleaning materials etc During a whole morning, they helped cleaning the houses, washing clothes, drawing water from the river and preparing the meal.
There is no doubt that this year, Christmas day will be as beautiful as the previous.