Sierra Leone - Kalie’s story: respect and dreams after the war

Published: 31 March 2011 12:06 CET

Kalie Kamara, 18, sits under the shade of a tree talking about his love of football and his excitement about his plan to work in construction – he’s come a long way in twelve months.

Only a year ago, Kalie held little hope for his future. He was just another example of the fallout of Sierra Leone’s decade-long civil war on so many of the children who grew up during the conflict, which ended in 2002.

When Kalie was just four years old, he witnessed his grandfather being killed by a young fighter. Kalie then spent the majority of his childhood with the fighting forces. To begin with he helped out in the commander’s home doing domestic chores because he was so small and unable to hold the heavy guns the soldiers used. But eventually he was trained to fight and sent to the frontline.

Returning home

After the war, young people like Kalie faced many problems when they returned home. Often, they were not accepted back into their communities because of the role they’d played during the conflict.

Kalie explains: “After all the soldiers were disarmed, I was living an awful life. I was drinking and stealing and pretty miserable. Even though my friend tried to persuade me to go to the Red Cross I refused, because I was so unhappy.”

Finally, Kalie’s friend convinced him to register at the Red Cross’ child advocacy and rehabilitation centre, where he went through a counselling programme, which helped him come to terms with his past. Kalie says: “I’ve changed a lot in the last year and the staff here have really helped me.”

A brighter future

As well as the counselling, Kalie also received education and vocational training, giving him a chance to rebuild his life. The centre offers a range of vocational courses and Kalie chose to learn construction. He now spends his free time helping his neighbours repair their houses, and passes on his training to people in the community.

But Kalie has learned more than just how to earn a living. He says: “I now respect myself and I want to become a responsible man. I went to my village and constructed a two-room house and I’m proud of myself for doing this.

“I already found a contractor who will take me on as an apprentice. I feel my commitment and good work will also help me get even more work when I finish my apprenticeship. My dream is that I will be somebody in the future, somebody respected in the community.”