Forced into drugs, killing at age 12, Ishmael Beah brings message of hope to U of C
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robin kuniski/for metro calgary
In 1991, at the tender of age 12 — when most boys are playing with toy guns — Ishmael Beah was taught to kill with real guns,
The 27-year-old ex-Sierra Leone soldier who was forced to fight and kill as a child brought his message of hope and survival to the University of Calgary yesterday.
"Everyone heals differently and some say, ‘why do you speak about this if it is difficult,’ but I think it’s my way of healing to speak about it to others to give them hope and strength," the author of A Long Way Gone told Metro.
In his book, Beah outlines his younger years of war and conflict where he and other young soldiers were forcibly given drugs, which they eventually became addicted to.
"When you descend into that life you know it’s wrong but after weeks and months of living that way you become addicted to the drugs and the violence and start believing this is the only way of life for you," he explained.
Luckily for Beah, UNICEF and the United Nations stepped in and chose some soldiers for a rehabilitation program, which changed his life and propelled him to help change others’ lives.
"I think I’m just very lucky. I would have wrote this book without it being published but I think people connect with the book and they see a real face to the issue of child soldiers and see how real it is," said Beah
He hopes people realize there are 300,000 child soldiers in more than 50 war-torn countries across the world.
"The long-term goal of ending this would be to stop wars from starting in the first place because when there is war, there will be child soldiers," Beah warned.
Beah was invited to tell his story at the University yesterday where about 500 people listened to his words of hope, struggle, survival and strength.
Nicki Guichon read Beah’s book and said she instantly felt like she had known him forever and had to meet him.
"It was mind-blowing what he went through. He wasn’t only a witness to but involved in some very horrific things and he didn’t only live through it but survived to tell his story to others," the 23-year-old told Metro.