According to Dr. Woodward, because of their stunted educational and emotional development, few former child soldiers will be able to reenter society without major intervention: "Most likely, fewer than 25 percent will return to a semblance of a normal life ... There are very limited resources for former child soldiers. Internationally, UNICEF provides rehabilitative services for those who are still children. For adults, Doctors Without Borders provides medical services to the best of their ability, as does the Mercy Ship and UNESCO (the United Nations)."
But the problem is getting the soldiers to ask for that help in the first place. Despite most of them wanting to continue their education, many worry that if they sign up for help, they will be tried and sentenced for the things they did during the war. This makes it difficult for them to receive the few benefits and training programs that are available to them. As for Puck, he managed to avoid that fate with help from Dr. Woodward:
"Since I [stopped being] a soldier, I relocated into Ghana, and there I met Dr. Lucinda in 2007. At that encounter, she became a great help in helping me put all my broken pieces together, and also became my counselor and instructor. From that point, I started doing some community volunteering services in the Buduburam refugee camp in Ghana, later I continue providing my voluntary service back home in Liberia as a social worker. Since then, I've just been working in different social-work-related fields, and in different locations, for NGOs and INGOs in Liberia and Ghana."
But what best helped Puck get back on his feet, working with victims of civil wars, came to him by pure luck. He was one of only 30 people chosen for the counselor project headed by Dr. Woodward, while there are still thousands of former child soldiers in need of help with nowhere to turn. Sadly, this often includes their own families, who are too afraid to take them back in. See, this is why action movies cut off right after the fighting ends: Nobody wants to hear about f**k Cat struggling to live with his past in a world that would rather forget him.
Lucinda Woodward, PhD is assistant professor of psychology at Indiana University Southeast in New Albany, Indiana. Her teaching encompasses social, personality, and clinical psychology, and her research interests include the interpersonal circumplex, pets and personality, child soldiers, and PTSD. A veteran of international fieldwork herself, as an instructor, Dr. Woodward is dedicated to encouraging her students to explore the boundaries of their world beyond the classroom. Cezary Jan Strusiewicz is a Cracked columnist, interviewer, and editor. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him on Twitter.
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