Knowing the dark realities of life in a rebel army, it’s hard to imagine anyone actually choosing that path. In truth however, a portion of the children, teens and young adults we work with are not sold, forcibly taken or threatened – they chose to become soldiers.
Their choices are driven by different circumstances. Living in deep poverty or trying to survive an abusive home life can make the camaraderie and daily meals of the army appealing. Other children join out of boredom or in hopes of gaining skills and education. Without access to education, they know the options for their future are extremely limited and to an innocent mind that can’t yet grasp the reality of war, learning to shoot guns sounds like fun.
We’ve also encountered many teens and young adults who were recruited into underground communist parties, indoctrinated and eventually joined the armed forces. They have experienced the political struggles of their country and long to “be the change” for justice. They see the value in the insurgent efforts to unite and serve the impoverished and oppressed.
Over the past few weeks we’ve been mobilizing local Philippine communities to engage with hope instead of hatred towards the rebel leaders. We have suddenly saw rebel families begin to defect or look for ways to exit the movement. And they are beginning to reach out to us for help. It is exciting to see such a quick impact but new challenges are also arising as we navigate between our positive relationships with rebel leaders and watching some of their soldiers adjust their perception of reality.
A young woman named Malaya is one of those who we personally counseled as tears filled her eyes. She is leaving the rebel army deeply frustrated and confused after realizing it could not help her build a better future or bring change to her country. She would love to pursue a college education but her options are limited by her tenuous situation.
We will do everything possible to help fund Malaya’s scholarship and path into a new life. If you want to help us support Malaya and the other defectors please contact us or donate online with a note about“Malaya & friends” in the comment box.
We hope these kinds of stories bring even more context as to why we place such a high value on education. As teens and young adults, the basic education they receive from our schools prepares them to get jobs and establishes them as “valuable” in the eyes of society. This means they become active participants in ending the cycles of poverty and changing the social norms.