Envision Project 2012-13: Red Hand Day for Child Soldiers
This academic year saw the first group of students from MPW Birmingham work with the Envision organisation to carry out an awareness raising campaign in relation to the plight of child soldiers around the globe.
Envision is a national organisation that aims to bring young people together with volunteers to identify issues that matter to them. The young people and volunteers then work together to develop their ideas and ultimately seek to raise awareness of them amongst their local community.
The MPW Birmingham group met throughout the first term and used the time to research local issues that were relevant directly to their lives and also global issues that affected people around the world. The group were consistently challenged to think about difficult issues ranging from child poverty in Britain to domestic violence and as a result were able to develop a much deeper understanding of issues facing their peers around the world. After much discussion and debate, the group decided to focus on two main causes, one was Comic relief and the other was Red Hand Day for Child Soldiers.
Red Hand Day is held annually on 12th February and is a campaign to stop the use of child soldiers. Over 370,000 handprints have been collected in more than 50 countries and handed over to politicians and to responsible parties, including UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. The group decided that they wanted to educate the staff and students of MPW Birmingham about the 250,000 child soldiers around the world by holding an awareness raising day in college.
Throughout the day students and staff were invited to come and share their hand print and learn a little more about the cause. Some of the key facts about child soldiers which were shared are as follows:
Children are involved in numerous armed conflicts all over the world. Recent examples are Afghanistan, Chad, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Nepal, Philippines, Somalia, Sudan, Uganda and Thailand. Many of these soldiers have been recruited by force and are unable to leave the armed unit once recruited. While the majority of child soldiers are between 15 and 18-years old, in some wars even 9-year-olds have been drafted.
Approximately one third of child soldiers are girls.
Young soldiers’ lives are often full of dangers and characterized by hard work, lack of food and drinking water. There is no health care but constant fear of being trapped in an ambush, landmine or gunfire. Discipline and obedience are enforced by brutal methods.
Many children die under inhuman circumstances, others survive handicapped, blind or traumatized for the rest of their lives.
Although a relatively small project, all students involved felt it was a vital one to carry out in order to show the college community how children are treated in some parts of the world. Following on from the awareness day, a display of the handprints, along with details of the charity was put up in college as a reminder of the charity and the work they do to stop the exploitation of child soldiers.