The story that follows is a compilation that was crafted using the real lives and circumstances of children rescued by our partner who visited us last week. The individual story details are merged together in order to protect the identities and lives of the children involved, but the compilation is an accurate representation of real world scenarios involving non-combatant child soldiers in Southeast Asia:

Abandoned to the Army

When I was six my parents gave me to the army. Early in the morning my father pulled me out of sleep. It was still dark. He packed me on his back down the mountain trail from the village. His long black hair tickled my nose all the way. After we came to the main road I had to walk. We walked most of the day. I had no water and my throat was chalky dry because it was the time of no rain. We walked between the rocks in the red powder of the earth as the red sun beat upon my head.

Finally we came to a cluster of houses. At the side of the road was a tin roofed lean-to. Men with guns sat in the shade of the slanted roof and also some stood in the shadow of a great tree that spread its frog-like limb’s over the road. They looked mean and I was scared but my father walked over to them. He left me near the base of the tree and went to talk with some of the men near a truck. I played with a dung beetle in the dirt.

Father turned away from the men and began walking down the road. He never even looked at me. I thought he had forgotten me. I cried out, "Papa," but he did not turn back. I began to run after him but one of the men in green caught me by the arm and cuffed me. "You stay here," he slurred at me. I was shocked. I tried to lunge away but he struck me again.

That evening they threw me on the supplies that awkwardly filled the truck and told me to hold on or die. We drove all night till my arms ached and my skin stung sore from the dust and wind. In the morning we arrived at a town and drove up to a cement and metal fence. This was to be my prison. I did not know what a prison was. I did not even know what an army was. But now I know because I have lived in this place of no escape. I later found out my parents had offered me for nothing, I was not even worth a few coins!

Some of my friends came here because they were orphans. Some of them were conscripted. Others were abandoned. I was one of the most unfortunate –so I thought. My parents disowned me. I don’t know why. Maybe, as I learn more about my world, I will figure it out. I think there was not enough food and my mother’s stomach was taut with a coming child. Another still nursed at her breast. My two brothers, both older than me, worked hard on the farm. They could help father better than I could –I heard them say it.

To be continued…