HOW WE WORK
PROJECT AK-47 exists to RESCUE child soldiers from lives of violence, RESTORE their identities, RESHAPE regions of conflict, and PREVENT the cyclical culture promoting the use of children as soldiers. Using economic initiatives, education programs and safe houses, we love and educate these children, equipping them with tools to navigate hardships and restore peace for their generation.
EDUCATIONAL PROGRAMS AND SCHOOLS.
When rebel groups come to “recruit” the children in a village, only those attending school can escape coercion to join. This is what we call smart rescue - keeping children out of the armies from the beginning.
Most of the insurgency in the world takes place in areas where indigenous people groups live. The majority of children who live in these tribal areas have no opportunity to gain an education because there are no schools for them to attend. Rebel groups see this lack of education as an opportunity to indoctrinate and recruit the children as soldiers in the fight against outside governments seeking to secure the area.
"PROJECT AK-47 are the first people to ever keep their promise to us. They said that they would build us a school and help our children, and they did... now, we will work with them to change our lives and make our home in the forest peaceful." - Datu (chief) in the village of Mintosing, Mindanao, Philippines.
The pain of historical betrayal and devastation has to be unhooked from a culture that tolerates armed conflict. People need tools to do this. Education is a tool. So is economics. In the Philippines we operate a timber recovery project in tangent with the tribal leaders to create jobs and income for schools. Projects like this also allow us to train leaders how to facedown corruption and develop peaceful governance.
In Burma we managed a tea plantation that was eventually stolen by a drug lord with 20,000 troops. Sometimes things don’t work out the way we would like but at the core we still believe economic solutions are a vital piece to closing the door on armed conflicts. People with jobs are more secure. Hungry people go to war. Desperate children carry guns. Safe children attend school and dream of economic futures with good jobs.
Our preference is to keep children with their parents but there are many situations where this is not feasible. Sometimes parents are unsafe. Children often end up in sex trafficking, soldiering or working as hit men because their parents are involved in the trade or have severe addictions.
Some of our homes are run family style. Others are staffed by locals. Some are under the radar and others are very public. It all depends on the context and the local leadership. We respect our local leaders and their cultures but also spend a lot of time training them how to value, love and respect children. It is critical that our work with children makes sense to the culture we are engaging. Otherwise, when the pressure comes, or war spikes, the homes will not last.
FOOTBALL (SOCCER) TEAMS.
Football (soccer) is not just a sport in Mexico. Football is a way of life, and as such, it provides a powerful medium to reach adolescents who desperately need a vision that is larger than themselves. Football is a discipline that encompasses more than life on the field; players go to bed early, avoid parties with drugs and alcohol, and learn how to control their anger, knowing that the choices they make will show up in their game.
Our pro football club is now a Division 2b team as we won won our championship in 2012.
However, the more important reality is that that we are achieving our goals off the field as well; the lives of the players are changing dramatically.
Agriculture is a key industry in all the areas of Southeast Asia where we are housing former child soldiers. Often we create agricultural training programs tied to a school or target region. Our experience in places like Myanmar where we have worked for 2 decades, shows that giving children any skill, such as dance, sports, computing, or basic literacy is often their ticket away from the front lines and into a job where they have more influence and income if conscription becomes inevitable.
Because we value innovative justice, we often have the opportunity initiate other projects.
I Love Street Children (ILSC).
Their work is focused on street kids and their families in Manila, Phillipines who are often targeted by the syndicate as semi-organized beggars and pickpockets. ILSC is networking in the Manila business and social community to run a hands-on halfway house for these children.