FUTURE GUARDIANS OF PEACE
From Child Soldiers to Peacebuilders
All of the FGP are committed to using their education to help restore stability and peace in post-conflict Liberia.
Now that the war is over, Liberia is profoundly challenged by the necessity to re-integrate into the community a fearsome number of child soldiers, most of whom are uneducated, with few skills other than the use of a gun. They are deeply traumatized by the terrible memories written into their bodies and souls of what they have done and witnessed, memories which not even elders would be able to bear. Empowering and restoring these children so they can find meaningful roles within the peacebuilding process remains one of Liberia’s greatest challenges.
Trading weapons for cameras has proved a powerful catalyst to peacebuilding. Sending the youth into communities wielding a camera has given them the ability to recapture the beauty of the world- as they see it.
Our experience confirms that visual documentation can inspire social cohesion, compassion, self-confidence, and a renewed commitment to peacemaking. The essence of the social change we continually see is a deep renewal of people’s belief in themselves and each other, within the context of their unique cultural resources. War torn communities and ‘at risk’ individuals are vulnerable to other people’s stories of their dilemmas and needs. This display can mirror the deep wisdom these people already possess but may not yet see in themselves - rewriting history while indicating the way to a more luminous - and hopeful - future.
-Andre Lambertson, Photographer & Mentor
In 2004, everyday gandhis made a promise to a group of former child soldiers and war-affected youth in Liberia. We promised to find a way to support them in their hope of finishing school. Going to school may sound like a simple task to many of us in the developed world, but in Liberia, basic education is extremely expensive and poses numerous obstacles, especially for ex- combatants.
For the past eight years, everyday gandhis has financially sponsored the high school education of the Future Guardians of Peace. Now, as young adults, there are challenges that they still must face as they finish high school and begin to tackle higher education. Our sponsored students have never stopped fighting. They fight for forgiveness, they fight for lasting peace, and they will continue to fight for a better life.
The Future Guardians of Peace have a deep commitment to peacebuilding, both for the sake of their own healing and also to know they are making a significant contribution to creating sustainable peace in their communities. For the past eight years they have been developing their skills as community peacebuilders, including awareness of and deep respect for traditional culture, morés and protocol; permaculture and ecological restoration; teen pregnancy and HIV/AIDS/STV prevention. They serve as mentors to other ex-combatant youth and to our other scholarship students, helping to plan and carry out community-based peacebuilding councils, soccer peace games and permaculture training.
We can offer these resilient learners a way to end the struggle against the oppressive socioeconomic circumstances that surround them. In doing so, we help them to rebuild their lives and make amends to their communities by becoming leaders and examples for others.
The original Future Guardians of Peace consists of 6 young men and one young woman. They began by learning photography and using it to reconnect with the community by being able to share beautiful images of people going about their daily lives. By giving people prints of the photographs they had taken, the FGP suddenly had something of value to share. The photographs also allowed them to share their personal stories, and to document and reflect on their own healing process.
Over time, they have added several new skills to their skills as community peacebuilders: training in Permaculture, leadership and ecological restoration; traditional drumming and dancing; conflict transformation; and HIV/AIDS/STD’s/Teen Pregnancy awareness and prevention. Their community service began as a medium of exchange for them to earn their room and board and school fees. After eight years, they have evolved into highly skilled community peacebuilders and they are still active today. They now train and mentor our Scholarship Students and other youth.
Today, two of the young men featured in the film are college students at U.S. universities. Other members of the group attend Cuttington University in Liberia, and pursue pre-med, social work, nursing degrees, and careers in peacebuilding. All of these students are committed to using their educations to help restore stability and peace in post- conflict Liberia.
MEET THE FUTURE GUARDIANS OF PEACE
Former Child Soldiers & War Affected Youth
“Sometime you look in the mirror, you see yourself. Sometime I ask why I am living, why God spare my life?” For me I would guess it is not like God love us more than others who have died. It is the method to bring us together to love each other. If you don’t have love for me maybe our condition encourage you to love.”
“Children are quick to learn from one another and quick to follow one another. Therefore, children are the future leaders of our land and we need to pay special attention to their activities and show concern about them and they will become proud of themselves and do more good things.”
“I did not know that I was good in school, but now I can notice all of these things. I want to be a medical doctor. Now I can see that I am getting into a new life and hope for my future.”
“Now I want to tell my friends out there that they can change and contribute to society. I want to extend my apology to all of our people for everything we did, it was out of ignorance. Every human being on earth, you've got to forgive your fellow human beings.”
"My ability to serve and relate to people in different ways, to me, are greatly affected by my peacebuilding capacity. Everywhere I go: be it on the campus, at home, on the bus, on the basketball court, just everywhere, I have always been able to connect with people in a very positive way."