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Lost and found

Former child soldiers in Africa draw on a reservoir of resilience

9:52am, May 9, 2008

From the annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association, Washington, D.C., May 5, 2008.

Ishmael Beah knows that former child soldiers in war-ravaged African countries can reclaim their lives because that’s just what he did. In 1993, rebels in Sierra Leone killed 13-year-old Beah’s parents and two brothers, forcing him to join their bloody campaign for two years. Upon his release, he stayed at a rehabilitation center for six months with other formerly abducted children. Beah now lives in the United States, and he wrote a 2007 book about his transition from child soldier to college graduate.

His inspiring story illustrates the resilience of children forced into committing unthinkable acts, especially if they receive treatment that blends with their cultures, as well as acceptance back into their home communities.

New studies challenge the popular view that children forced to commit war atrocities end up as “lost

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