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According to official estimates, as many as 250,000 girls and boys under the age of 18 are forced to serve as armed militants around the world including Colombia, Myanmar, the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan and close to a dozen other countries on the United Nations’ “List of Shame.” In stark contrast to the developed nations where such practices are outlawed, commanders in these countries take great care to avoid responsibility for enlisting children, and are rarely held accountable — with devastating consequences.

Recruited under false pretenses from situations of adversity — such as poverty, domestic abuse, neglect, homelessness or death of a parent — these children are easy to manipulate, inexpensive to feed, and simple to replace. Once absorbed into the ranks of war, they are stripped of their basic human rights and condemned to relentless assaults on their dignity.

“They make perfect soldiers,” explains James Areiza, coordinator of protection and prevention programs at Ciudad Don Bosco in Medellin, Colombia. “Their commanders only need to say, ‘If you don’t do what I tell you, you’re dead, and your family is dead.’ When they arrive here, we don’t see free human beings. We see humans in chains.”

During the past 18 years at Ciudad Don Bosco alone, Salesian missionaries have rescued and rehabilitated 2,400 girls and boys victimized by their country’s brutal civil war. Through a holistic approach — psychological counseling, remedial education, job-skills training, reintegration programs and family reunification, when possible — missionaries equip former child soldiers with the resources, skills and confidence they need to reclaim their futures.

Photo credit: Matthew Pirrall

You can help us heal their traumas and restore their hope.

With your generosity, we can ensure that every child subjected to the horrors of involuntary combat, abuse and exploitation enjoys this same opportunity in Colombia, and wherever our Salesian missionaries serve.

Your support means we can expand crucial prevention services, so that precious girls and boys never have to experience such abuse in the first place.

Thank you for your compassion!

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As many as 250,000 young people, under the age of 18, are forced to become #childsoldiers. Together, we can expand crucial prevention services so precious girls & boys never have to experience such abuse.

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It’s horrifying to imagine: precious girls and boys, some as young as seven years old, forced to become soldiers and fulfill the most brutal roles of violent conflict. Will you help us rescue and rehabilitate them?

We hope and pray that you support our life-saving work. Your gifts will be used for this program and other similar Salesian programs around the globe that benefit poor and needy youth. Please join us to help make the world a better place.