These were children in most cases kidnapped and drugged to commit some of the most unimaginable crimes against humanity. But since the end of the war, child soldiers are now the undesired and untouchables of Liberia.
The crimes committed by these kids during the war undoubtedly are despicable. Some parents of these kids have even disowned them due to the embarrassment of the crimes kids have committed. The community despises them; they have become public nuisance, venerable street children and are prime targets of terrorist recruiters, while some have become killers for hire in the various arm conflicts in the sub-region.
It is against this backdrop that the Liberia Coalition Project (LCP), a non-for-profit, non political and non-partisan organization has come to help change the lives of these war affected children including former child soldiers who were forcibly recruited to take up arms against their fellow Liberians.
The Liberia Coalition Project is an intervention, prevention and rehabilitation program for child soldiers and children affected by the trauma of war. The organization is a collaboration of professional Liberians and concerned U.S. citizens who’re friends of Liberia from the University of Florida, Miami Dade College, University of Illinois and associates from Rutgers University, among others.
The Project is headed by Mr. Jerome Gayman, a patriotic Liberian with years of professional experience and achievement in the areas of health and management. Mr. Gayman and a group of professional volunteers, ranging from the medical profession, social workers, legal and media professionals are working over time to ensure that these dreams become a reality.
According to Mr. Gayman, the goal of the project is to provide a long term solution to the problem through programs such as Vocational Training, Reality Therapy, Art Therapy, Recreation Therapy, Drug Rehabilitation, Intensive Crisis Counseling (a comprehensive rehabilitation).
The Project chief executive officer told The Perspective that the program will provide direction and leadership often lacking for "at-risk and exploited children," young adults and their families.
The program, Mr. Gayman said, is designed as an intensive intervention and rehabilitation residential program for child soldiers and children affected by the trauma of the war in Liberia, who when given comprehensive support to insure their healthy personal development, will have an increased possibility of being an asset and accepted into the Liberian society.
The mission of the Liberia Coalition Project, which is a subsidiary of the Fort Pierce Multilateral Center, Inc. (FPMC)/Frontline For Kids is to provide leadership, direction and support to ensure that all adolescents/Liberia's Child Soldiers have an equal opportunity to succeed, follow their own right path and become community assets, through the use of: Reality Therapy, Arts Therapy, Recreation Therapy and a strong vocational training.
The principles defined a child soldier as: "a person under 18 years of age who is part of any kind of regular or irregular armed forces or armed groups in any capacity, including but not limited to cooks, porters, messengers, any one accompanying such groups, other than family members."
The definition includes girls recruited for sexual purposes or for forced marriage. It does not, therefore, only refer to a child who is carrying or has carried arms. The LCP vision is grand…to create a successful Liberia Coalition Project program in Montserrado County and then replicate the program throughout the fifteen counties of Liberia.
To accomplish this great task, a concentrated effort will be provided to core (Child Soldiers) groups of children/young adults in select communities, along with committed resources, skills, support, time and energy.
By committing to these children and their families up until graduation from the program and enrollment into post-secondary education and/or vocational training, there is a greater likelihood that many success stories will be achieved and the communities will reap the benefits of these now productive members and assets to the Liberian society.
Meanwhile, Mr. Gayman recently headed a high power delegation on a second fact finding trip in Liberia –the delegation had discussions with international and national NGOs relative to the project.
While in the country, Mr. Gayman, a humanitarian and social worker also met with high profile individuals within both private and public sectors as well as prominent individuals within the United Nations system and the UN Mission in Liberia.