Victoria Vo, Finalist, Local Letters for Global Change

Image by Tobin Jones for UN photos.

Image by Tobin Jones for UN photos. 

This letter features reporting from “Reporter’s Diary: Heal Somalia’s Former Child Soldiers, Heal a Nation" by Hassan Ghedi Santur

Dear Zoe Lofgren,

In early February 2009, the Somali Civil War began due to clan conflicts. This war continues to press on into the present. Recently, I have come across a Pulitzer Center news story titled “Reporter’s Diary: Heal Somalia’s Former Child Soldiers, Heal a Nation,” which discusses the injustices and brutality that Somalia’s former child soldiers have had to, and presently still, endure. Hassan Ghedi Santur, the author of the news story, travels to Somalia to see the damages of the civil war first-hand and to note the effects war has had on former child soldiers.

I have never experienced or seen war first-hand, and for that I am lucky. I have, of course, read several books and seen numerous movies that discuss the tragedies of war, as well as learned about it in school. I hear the horror stories of war and wonder how anyone could ever do such things. My mind is unwilling to wrap around the inhumane and dark reality that war holds. And yet, the cruelty of war is the reality of hundreds of thousands of Somali children. After leaving the battlefield, former child soldiers were reported in the article to be suffering from severe post traumatic stress disorders, also known as PTSD. Also written in the news article is that there is an apparent lack of sufficient emotional or psychological help for these child soldiers.

Although Somalia is thousands of miles away and the situation feels like it’s not of importance to us and our community, it is. Children are known as the future of the world. One day, they will grow and become adults and the responsibility of their parents and community will be shifted onto them. If Somalia’s child soldiers aren’t given the proper help that they need, how are they to move on and take care of their community? By providing emotional and psychological help to these children, we can restore a part of their precious, impressionable childhoods and restore their faith in peace. We can break the chains of war and violence that these child soldiers have had to endure and create a new generation where war is extinct. Children are the future and by educating and aiding them we can help create a safer environment for future generations to live in.

The situation that these Somali children are in is somewhat similar to the immigration problem that the U.S. endures now. The consequences of border separations on children are evident and also extremely traumatizing. However, if we can learn to help our children, we can learn to help Somali children.

So how will we do it? It may sound easier said than done but I would suggest having professional child psychologists go to Somalia to help the former child soldiers and make sure their recovery goes smoothly. Doctors and nurses can be provided as well if the child soldiers are injured. Things like a safe family environment and food and water should also be easily accessible. Students from the U.S. can donate extra notebooks, pencils, papers, and other school supplies, as well as clothes and canned foods to help the children in Somalia. Lastly, maybe we can have teachers and schooling available to these children. After all, everyone deserves an education. Knowledge holds a different type of power than weapons. Some can even argue that knowledge can be stronger than physical violence.

I started writing this letter because of an e-mail I received from a former teacher telling me about a Pulitzer Center writing contest. However, now that I have looked further into the topic thanks to Hassan Ghedi Santur’s article, I am moved by the situation that Somalia’s former child soldiers have to endure and hope that this letter has made some difference. Let’s help heal the former child soldiers of Somalia and bring a generation of deprived children into the light of a safer world. Let’s help be the change.

Victoria Vo

Victoria Vo

Hello! My name is Victoria Vo and I am currently attending Andrew Hill High School as a freshman. Lately, I have been learning to use my voice, however small it may be, to speak out about important topics and hopefully make a positive difference. My supportive family, teachers, and friends have helped me immensely in the process and I hope to continue making my voice and the voices of others heard.

Click here to read more winners and finalists from the 2018 Local Letters for Global Change contest.