Kent State University, OH
Lassana Kanneh is courageous young man with a remarkable story. At the age of 11, Lassana was lured to fight as a child soldier in Liberia’s brutal civil war. Over 20,000 Liberian children like Lassana were forced to fight after being abducted by adult commanders. On the battlefield, child soldiers were both emotionally and physically abused. They were forced to use drugs and alcohol, and forced to commit war atrocities. If they survived the war, they were then forced to live with the psychological, emotional, and physical traumas left by war.
After the war, Lassana was isolated from his fractured community and living on the rough fringes of Liberian society. Like too many ex-combatants who suffered from war trauma, substance abuse, and despair, Lassana’s future seemed bleak. However, in 2006, Lassana’s life took a radical turn and a new chapter in his remarkable story began.
In 2006, Lassana met grassroots peacebuilders working for everyday gandhis in Voinjama, Liberia, and moved to the everyday gandhis peacebuilding compound. Here, Lassana lived with other young ex-combatants and began his healing journey out of war. Committing themselves to be Liberia’s Future Guardians of Peace, the former child soldiers completed an exhaustive and intensive grassroots peacebuilder training program.
Sharing his story through dialogue and photography has been the heart of his healing process and a central part of his peacebuilder training. Lassana’s journey from child soldier to peacebuilder is documented in the critically acclaimed feature film THE FIGHT TO FORGIVE.
At the end of the peacebuidler training program, Lassana dedicated himself to peace and expressed his dream to be a journalist. He said that telling the truth and educating the world on international affairs, could help prevent war in the future. His new mission was to build peace and contribute to the redevelopment of his country.
Over the last few years, Lassana has successfully pursued his dream. He completed high school in Liberia and began his four-year secondary education at Kent State University (Kent, Ohio) as a scholarship student. As a journalism major at KSU, Lassana has thrived both academically and socially. Lassana writes for the student newspaper the Daily Kent Stater and his peacebuilding blog The Journal Daily. Lassana’s articles have appeared on the front page of the Daily Kent Stater and he has organized numerous grassroots discussions regarding conflict resolution on campus.
everyday gandhis is enormously proud of Lassana and all he has accomplished both personally and academically. We continue to marvel at his story and hope you will consider helping Lassana continue his studies at KSU.
“I had a dream when I was much younger. It was to go to school and then move into the world for higher education. There were very little possibilities of this happening when I was younger. My mother worked to sustain me after she had lost my father and two identical oldest brothers in the first Liberian civil war of the 1990’s, a power struggle between rebel factions that led the country into political and economic instability. She experienced much hardship and could not continue to send me to pre-school because there was no financial means. No family members were there to assist her as the war had displaced people from their homes and others fled to neighboring countries to become refugees. She had a small business that would feed us once a day. As a child, I couldn’t persist to endure the depression that I was experiencing.”
Future Guardian of Peace