SOURCE: Vision Media

August 15, 2007 03:00 ET

Current Social Issue: The Remarkable Resilience of Child Soldiers

Ex-Child Soldier Ishmael Beah Learns About Ethics and Morality the Hard Way

PASADENA, CA--(Marketwire - August 15, 2007) - Ishmael Beah was 12 years old when Sierra Leone's brutal, decade-long civil war reached his village in January 1993. He found himself swept up into the government army, a child soldier. Fourteen years later, he brought this important current social issue (http://www.vision.org/visionmedia/overview.aspx?id=103) to the world's attention in his memoirs, "A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier."

In a recent interview with Vision Media, Beah shared the lessons he learned from his experience and about moral values in society and his hopes about how the future can be changed for other children who become victims of this form of slavery.

"I think my life changed because the people who came into my life were able to show me compassion and kindness and that human beings can care deeply for each other, selflessly."

Beah himself cares deeply and selflessly for the remaining 200,000 to 300,000 child soldiers enslaved worldwide. He campaigns tirelessly for aid, and for the kinds of changes required to make a difference to the power and scope of this current social issue.

Though he may not have realized it at the time, there was sound reason for his belief that child soldiers can indeed be rehabilitated.

Dr. Martin Seligman identifies several key responses that can be taught to children to increase their resilience. "Each of us has habits of thinking about causes," he says. "Children who bounce back from setbacks and resist depression believe that causes of bad events are temporary." In contrast, children who are least resilient are those who believe that the causes of bad events in their lives are permanent and unchangeable.

What Seligman calls "masterful action" is another important building block of resilience, and he defines this trait as "a habit of persisting in the face of challenge and overcoming obstacles." As children work toward positive goals and achieve success, they develop habits of positive thinking.

Beah is living confirmation that this factor also contributes to resilience. Currently, the results of some of his "masterful action" are evident in the way he is working to help other children coming to grips with this current, global social issue.

For a video clip and the interview transcript, see "Ishmael Beah: Hope Springs Eternal" (http://www.vision.org/visionmedia/article.aspx?id=3526) at www.vision.org.

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