Whether children are teen assassins in the cartel, political killers for a governor or guards in a slave labor camp, they are children in armed conflict needing rescue.
SARAI'S STORY: SOLD FOR $10 (THAILAND)
Sarai came to us at only 6 years old. Her mother and father were both drug addicts. Her father was in prison and her mother's addiction was severe. One day, her mother brought Sarai behind the woven bamboo walls of their home and sold her to a Chinese man who lived up the street. Her price, a mere 300 baht - the equivalent of $10!
Not long after this, one of our leaders came and took Sarai, slamming 300 baht in the neighbor's hand.
Sarai lived with us for 10 years before she sat down and told us the entire story (watch it on our blog). The pain of her former life was still incredibly real but she was overwhelmingly grateful for the hope and life she had received with us.
Her plan is to join the Thai army and fight drug traffickers. The moment Sarai simply became a way for her mother to fund her addiction, defined the course of Sarai's life. Years later she is ready to fight against that injustice.
Sammy's Story: Military Slave Camp (Myanmar/Burma)
We have worked with and been friends with Sammy for a long time. He is a courageous risk taker like many of our leaders, willing to go to hard and dangerous places to help desperate people. A few years ago, he and a larger groups of local leaders were traveling in a remote area of Myanmar. They were suddenly apprehended by cartel leaders and taken to a military labor camp without explanation.
The circumstances were dismal. Sammy worked all day in the fields—every day—without complaint and scrounged the roadside for weeds to eat in the evening with his rice. He shared what little he had from the grungy hovel he slept in. Something seemed different about a man who could be happy as a slave. The child soldiers who guarded him, many of them as young as 11 or 12 and carrying AK-47's, would come to his cell late at night, curiously drawn to him. One thing that surfaced over and over was the burning question, “How do we escape?” It was odd to be constantly asked a question like that by his jailers!
Sammy was released after a month and a half of negotiations. When he began his hike out of the camp to the pickup point, the young soldiers threw down their AK-47's and chased after him, weeping and calling him father, begging him to not forget them. Their cries and questions of escape still echo in his ears.
Many times when we want to quit because it’s just too hard or we don’t have the funds to help more kids, we come back to this story and remind ourselves there are nameless, faceless kids out there who have absolutely no one to fight for them if we back out.
Tina's Story: A Sweet 16 Killer (Mexico)
At the tender age of 9, Tina was hanging out with friends at a local drug dealer’s shack and had her first high. While she was in her drug stupor, the dealer raped her without second thought. Tina told her mother what happened and she simply responded, “get over it!”
Tina became hooked on drugs to cover the pain and a year later she started working for the cartel as a "hawk” to cover her habit. She quickly impressed her cartel bosses and was soon going with them on jobs as a lookout. A few years down the road she witnessed multiple violent murders and rapes.
Then the day of opportunity arrived and Tina was invited to be part of a group of young girls who worked as assassins for the cartel. A group of 20 girls, 16 years and under, were selected and taken to an isolated ranchero. They were weapons trained as assassins; specifically, how to take men to bed and kill them.
Less than a year later, Tina had already participated in several shootouts and 8 of her enclave had already been killed. Tina decided she had to escape. She connected to us through a family member who had heard about our program.
Tina was in our care for a few months and began to feel the danger had passed. She started leaving our center to do small errands at a corner shop every day. On one of these trips she never made it back to the center. We were told 4 hit-men nabbed her. We searched the city up and down but she was gone.
We do everything in our power to make sure our children are safe. However, the reality of working in regions of conflict is that we can never fully escape the reach of rebel groups. This is why we work to create permanent change and stop the cycle of violence.
Edgardo's Story: Born to be an Assassin (Philippines)
Edgardo, was literally trained as an assassin from childhood in a warrior tribe of Mindanao, Philippines. His father took him to the riverbank as a child to gaze at the bodies of his three aunts who had been raped and killed by the opposition army. Every day, his father would take him to the beach and have him shoot bottles out of the air. When he missed, he was punished, usually a missed meal.
He became very good, even shooting and reloading a grenade launcher while blindfolded before he was 10! By 12 years old, Edgardo was a skilled gunfighter and sniper. He recalls his first assassination at age 14, which he carried out by emptying all 30 rounds of his M-16 magazine into the man. In his lifetime he carried out over 25 political assassinations for corrupt government leaders.
You would think a hardened killer like Edgardo would be a lost cause, but years later, he is one of the most compassionate, caring people you will ever meet; he is now a rescuer of children who would otherwise be trained to hate and to kill.
This is a powerful reminder that believing the best for others, even in the most hopeless situations is a worthy cause. PROJECT AK-47 it built around the idea that we can all make choices about what a child will become: A Kid or A Killer?
WEAR THEIR STORY.
The most powerful way to share a child's story is to wear their dog tags. Each tag is imprinted with a child's protected name, age and the country where they are enslaved. GET YOUR TAGS NOW.