Child Advocacy & Rehabilitation (CAR)
Conflict and civil instability over 17 years in Liberia inflicted severe damage on families, community relationships, health and education infrastructure and the mental well being of the population in general. The impact was particularly severe on children and youth, many thousands of whom were forcefully conscripted to be soldiers, labourers or sex slaves.
Formal education for these children was either interrupted or never began and many – because of the violence and hostility they experienced – have had difficulty reintegrating with their communities.
The Red Cross Response:
The provision of basic education, skills training and counselling to children and youth is critical as effective reconstruction depends on effective rehabilitation. The Child Advocacy and Rehabilitation Program (CAR) – first introduced in Sierra Leone in 2001 – has been implemented in Liberia and has begun making a tremendous difference in the lives of children affected by conflict.
The CAR program is run by the Liberian Red Cross, with funding from several sources including the Canadian, Norwegian, Swedish, Swiss and British Red Crosses. The program has the capacity to educate, train and counsel 300 war-affected youth each year in two CAR centres in Liberia.
The CAR program provides:
- Basic reading and math skills for children between 10–13 years of age.
- Advanced reading and math courses for youth 10–18 years of age.
- Vocational training in trades such as carpentry, masonry, tailoring, welding, and dyeing in order to complement students’ education with practical and locally appropriate skills.
- Start-up kits to students who complete their education and training to give graduates the tools necessary to use their new skills to help support their families and rebuild their communities.
- Counseling in family and emotional wellness – both individually and in groups – to help children cope with trauma and war-related experiences.
- Nourishing meals to all students.
- Ongoing dialogue with children’s communities in order to ensure positive reintegration.
- Daily transportation for students to and from their homes and communities.
After 10 months of supported learning at the CAR centre – and close communication with their families and communities – students are reintegrated into the public school system or supported in their efforts to begin work in a selected trade. Upon completion of the program and reintegration, the children receive 1 year of follow up support & counselling to ensure their transition is supported within their communities.
- CAR program aims to provide individual attention to war-affected youth and to contribute to post-graduate independence and self sufficiency.
- Students receive psycho social, educational and vocational training during an 11-month enrolment.
- Government of Liberia endorsed Accelerated Learning Program (ALP) is a key feature of the program.
- Monitoring of newly graduated students continues after they return to their communities.
- CAR Centre is a new building on two acres of land just outside the capital, Monrovia. Offers access to recreation and sports facilities and cultural and drama shows.
- Individual counselling sessions have been conducted for 3,451 people. Beneficiaries shared stories of their trauma and confidence was built between counsellors and children, who worked together to heal and restore dignity.
- As of December 2007, 440 participants had graduated from 3 cycles of the project. The graduates were then reintegrated into their various communities, and are supported for one year with follow up counseling and family visits. For those between the ages of 10 – 13 years old, they are also linked to regular schools to continue their education.
300 YOUTH GRADUATE FROM THE C.A.R. PROGRAM EACH YEAR
Sara, A Symbol of Hope
Sara was abducted by armed men in 1999 and taken to the jungles of Sierra Leone. She was exposed to all kinds of dangers, from aerial bombings to surprise attacks from other fighting forces. She was released nine months later, but suffered deep trauma.
Sara was admitted to the CAR programme in Sierra Leone where she received counselling. She studied gara tie-dyeing and was later given a scholarship to continue her academic career. Sara excelled and by the time she finished, she had earned the distinction of being the best student that the school had ever had.
Posted: December 4, 2008