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SUMMARY

Mind to Change was founded by a Dutch anthropologist, and a Sierra Leonean student, in collaboration with 23 former child soldiers in Sierra Leone. The initiative is based on the needs of the former child soldiers, and is designed to bridge the gap left after the ending of the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration program, six years ago. The main goal of the organization is to contribute to sustainable peace and development. After the peace agreement, many organizations came in to support child soldiers in their reintegration. Some organizations focused on their psychological wellbeing, other organizations focused on their professional development and provided them with socalled „reintegration packages‟: basic training in tailoring, masonry, carpentry, and car mechanics, or scholarships for theoretical education, with a maximum period of three years. Mind to Change found that a large group of former child soldiers, six to eight years after their participation, have still not reintegrated into mainstream society. The only way to get them „on board‟ is long term help to enable them to rebuild their own lives. According to our research, former child soldiers want to belong to society and if they stand something to lose (a life, a job or achievement), they will do everything possible to hold on to it. Mind to Change kicked off its support to former child soldiers with a pilot project in theoretical education. Twenty three former child soldiers and two non-child soldiers took part in the pilot project. The child soldiers come from different regions, were involved in different armed forces, and are of different ages. What they all have in common is that they have lost their family support networks and are therefore unable to pay for their own education. MTC paid for their school fees, lesson materials, uniforms and medical emergencies. MTC achieved most of its set goals – achievement in education, an increase in feelings of self worth, increase of independence, increased trust in the society, increased integration into mainstream society, increased future perspective and decrease in alcohol/drug abuse – with a more than satisfactory result. This report explains the success and failure factors, the lessons learned and the evaluation of the pilot program.


CONTENTS Introduction

| 1

Goal & Mission Statement

The Project

| 3

Project Outline

Method

| 5

Goal & Mission Statement

Selection Procedure

| 9

Selection of beneficiaries

Setting Up The Project

| 11

Implementation

Running The Project

| 17

Monitoring

Extra Curricular

| 19

Activities

Results

| 23

Results, Lessons Learned & Challenges

Way Forward

| 30


INTRODUCTION

1

In September 2007, Mind to Change started its first project with 25 former child soldiers in Sierra Leone. The main goal of the project was to bring former child soldiers back to mainstream society and to actively involve them in their communities, raise their awareness of their rights and duties as citizens of the community and the necessity of their contribution to society, and finally, to enable them to take responsibility over their own lives. The scholarship project was designed in collaboration with former child soldiers, based on their needs and the problems they still face in postwar society. MTC chose to start with a pilot project in order to develop effective methods and to ensure that the implementation of a larger scale project will run smoothly in the future. In this report, we describe the process of the pilot project. Both the challenges and success factors will be discussed. Finally, we discuss the lessons learned and the way forward. The scholarship program focuses on empowering and capacitating individual members of vulnerable groups to enable them to develop their own lives in the postwar society through education. The backbone of our program is a personal approach, in which the needs of the individual are directly related to the needs of the postwar society, so that both the individual and society as a whole benefit from the program.


MISSION STATEMENT

Mind to Change aims to help (re-)build the postwar society in finding ways for the society to absorb and involve vulnerable groups and people who find themselves in the margins of society, through empowerment of members of vulnerable groups with the tools to help them develop into responsible citizens and to help them (re)build their own lives.


3

OUTLINE OF THE PROJECT DESCRIPTION The scholarship program provides scholarships to individual former child combatants for: Basic education (secondary school) Professional training Higher education The „scholarship project‟ is a total package for the complete education of individuals, and has four components: Material help, directly related to education: college fees, uniforms, schoolbooks, school materials, pamphlets, exam fees, extra classes. Material help, indirectly related to education to enable the individual to follow education and concentrate on his or her studies, (if proven necessary): Lunch money, maintenance money, housing, fund for maintenance of family members the individual is responsible for. Advice in their educational careers, based on; the individuals‟ wishes, capacities, and talents opportunities on the job market the needs of society as a whole Moral support in personal or educational difficulties. Participants will be assisted throughout their educational careers. The assistance they will receive is dependent on their personal circumstances, talents and capabilities. We expect the participant to take own responsibility and be motivated to follow education. Their scholarship will be re-evaluated half yearly. If participants fail without „good‟ reason, their rights to a scholarship will be revoked. Mind to Change will assist them to find other means or ways to (re)build their lives. When applicants finish their education, Mind to Change will help them to find their way on the job market and apply for jobs.


5

METHOD The word „chance‟ is key and central to our method. Mind to Change aimed to provide individual former child soldiers with the fair chance to take control over and to (re)build their own lives, to (one) enhance the quality of their lives in general and (two) avoid future dependence on humanitarian help. MTC chose theoretical education as its first activity based on the wishes of the former child soldiers involved in building the initiative Mind to Change, and based on their needs and problems in postwar society, as well as the overall low education rate in the country. MTC gave scholarships for basic education, academic education and professional training, and provided in career counseling. MTC was set out to make long term investments in individuals as part of their communities. We related the needs of the individual former child soldiers to the needs of their communities and the society as a whole. We gave them advice and enabled them to undergo the appropriate training for their professional development. The one-year pilot project was, if successful, intended to be part of an ‟all the way‟ approach: a twenty two year old ex-child soldier who is detached from his/her family and community who has the potential to develop him or herself in the academic field, for example, will be guided through his or her educational career until we can deliver him or her at their first job. From secondary school level to university and from university to the practical training necessary to fit in the job market. Mind to Change has provided the individual with material and immaterial assistance and has tried to re-establish his or her ties with their families and communities and find ways to strengthen their social networks.


Individual Mind to Change believes that most former child soldiers participated in armed forces because of push and pull factors that were beyond their control. After their reintegration, they have felt betrayed and most of them feel that they still donâ€&#x;t belong to society. Mind to Change aims to bring former child soldiers „back on boardâ€&#x;, to give them a sense of belonging to society, to help them to familiarize themselves with and adhere to societal norms and values, and to take active part in their communities to enhance the quality of their individual lives.

Society Former child soldiers who donâ€&#x;t have future prospects are vulnerable to develop deviant lifestyles which ultimately forms a threat to the stability of the postwar society. If former child soldiers are given the chance to contribute to their communities in a positive sense, they will be accepted back into mainstream society more easily, which should ultimately make them less vulnerable to deviation from mainstream society. In simple terms: if they have something to lose, they will be more enticed to stay on the straight path.


7

RATIONALE Former child soldiers form a „forgotten group‟ in the humanitarian sector. They are no longer children, but young adults, and they cause relatively little trouble in the postwar society. Their reintegration seems therefore, on the surface, to be fairly successful. The quality of their lives, however, is poor and although they have been accepted back into (mainstream) society, the population still treats them with some degree of distrust. With the 2007 national elections, for example, many Sierra Leoneans expressed a concern and in some cases even the fear that former child soldiers could and would be used to threaten the peace and national security. In order to build a stable civil society after war, the citizens of the country must have a sense of security and mutual trust relationships have to be re-established. Mind to Change aims to help members of vulnerable groups to find their ways in mainstream society, so that they can contribute to the (re)building of the postwar society and live meaningful lives as postwar civilians. The eleven years Sierra Leonean Civil War officially ended in January of 2002. In the course of the war, and immediately after its official ending, a total number of 6,845 child soldiers registered for Demobilization, Disarmament and Reintegration programs (DDR). Some of them received an amount in cash in exchange for their weapon(s), some of them received practical skills training and a toolbox, and others received payment for one or two years in (mostly basic) education. Many different institutions, scholars and researchers have reported about the flaws and ineffectiveness of the DDR programs in Sierra Leone; most former child combatants who went through „DDR‟ are still unable to find jobs or to complete basic education. Next to that, an unknown (but considerable) number of child soldiers reintegrated into society without the help of DDR-programs. A considerable number of child soldiers have still not fully integrated into postwar society


SELECTION

9

The pilot project was designed to take in 25 beneficiaries. The participants were selected after a four month research period, conducted in december 2006 – march 2007. Selection was based on the participantsâ€&#x; inabilities to start or continue education, and their inability to reintegrate into mainstream society. The program involved: -

7 Child soldiers (non fighters)

-

16 Child combatants (fighters)

-

2 Disadvantaged youths (non child soldiers)

amongst whom: -

3 University students

-

1 College student (higher practical education)

-

1 Basic Computer Literacy student (beginners level)

-

20 Secondary School students

The makeup of the group was designed to make comparison between child soldiers and non-child soldiers possible, and to assess the different needs of the different types of child soldiers.

Sponsored elements (ultimately granted according to personal needs): -

School fees

-

Lesson materials

-

Extra classes

-

Transport fees

-

Uniforms

-

Lunch money

-

Lodging

-

Medical care


IMPLEMENTATION

11

The project started off with an assessment of the personal needs of each of our participants. MTC decided to only sponsor the participants in their most pressing needs related to their education, to enable them to follow education. The participants were required to make their own contribution, in accordance with their capacity. We took this approach because we suspected that our participants would be less motivated to work hard in school if we would give them a full scholarship as a „handout‟. We assessed that if they were required to contribute to their own education, they would stand something to loose, which would motive them to work harder to achieve good results. Before the participants were admitted into the project, they were asked to write a motivation letter. They then entered into the selection procedure, in which a panel of three „judges‟ (one researcher, and two former child soldiers) tested their motivation. One of the participants was rejected from the project at the beginning stage, before receiving assistance, because it turned out he lacked motivation to follow education during the selection procedure. One participant was motivated to go through education, but because he had been out of school for more than five years (after the successful completion of secondary school) and lacked future perspective. We agreed to give him an „orientation year‟, in which he would act as a mentor for the other participants. In exchange he received two practical courses in IT literacy to enable him to actively contribute to the structure of the organization MTC, the implementation of the pilot project and the designing of future projects. One participant (Paul) became critically ill during the academic year. We decided to pay his medical bills, to get him back in school as soon as possible. He turned out to have TB, and had to be hospitalized for a period of 3 months. Due to his illness, he was unable to continue his education. One participant (Ansu) suffered from chronic stomach pains, which was disturbing regular school attendance. We decided to pay the medical bills for his treatment. His illness was fully cured in two weeks time. One participant (Musa) had a car accident in December, and was unable to pay for his treatment. We decided to pay for the medical bills, to speed up the healing process so that he would not have to miss classes.


PARTICIPANTS Ibrahim

Computer Training

Le.

250.000

63

Lodging

-

300.000

-

75

Basic necessities

-

175.000

-

44

Transport

-

150.000

-

38

Feeding & Family support

-

1.180.000

-

295

Hassan

University fees

-

560.000

-

140

Lansana

University fees

-

350.000

-

88

Emmanuel

University fees

-

250.000

-

63

Emerson

College fees

-

1.220.000

-

305

John

School fees

-

75.000

-

19

Lesson materials/Uniform

-

95.000

-

24

Lodging

-

100.000

-

25

Jay

School fees/Uniform

-

130.000

-

33

Teddy

School fees/Uniform

-

130.000

-

33

Andrew

School fees/Uniform

-

130.000

-

33

Musa

School fees/Uniform

-

130.000

-

33

Medical bills

-

75.000

-

21

School fees/Uniform

-

130.000

-

33

Medical bills

-

175.000

-

44

Patrick

School fees/Uniform

-

130.000

-

33

Charles

School fees/Uniform

-

130.000

-

33

Jim

School fees

-

25.000

-

7

Lesson materials

-

180.000

-

45

Extra classes

-

25.000

-

7

Mohamed

School – Exam fees/Uniform

-

250.000

-

63

Amadu

School – Exam fees/Uniform

-

250.000

-

63

Transport

-

50.000

-

13

Extra classes

-

125.000

-

32

Denis

School – Exam fees/Uniform

-

250.000

-

63

Abdul

School – Exam fees/Uniform

-

250.000

-

63

Joe

School - Exam fees/Uniform

-

250.000

-

63

Ansu

School – Exam fees/Uniform

-

250.000

-

63

Medical bills

-

130.000

-

33

Sam

Exam fees

-

250.000

-

63

J. Sam

Exam fees/Uniform

-

400.000

-

100

Lesson materials

-

180.000

-

45

Mohamed

Exam fees

-

250.000

-

63

Malcolm

Exam fees/Lesson materials

-

300.000

-

75

9.280.000

2.336

Paul

Le.


TESTING APPROACHES

13

The main pillars of the project are self-reliance and self-responsibility. We therefore tested several different approaches in the implementation of the project, to find a uniform approach for all of our future beneficiaries. Some students received their budgets in cash, and were put in charge of their own affairs. For some students, we paid their school fees directly to the school and helped them buy uniforms and lesson materials. The students who were in charge of their own affairs, gave us little to no feedback, and were in a way, detached from the organizationâ€&#x;s project. They did not contact our staff for advice or support, even when they were facing problems in their education. The students who were guided through every process, were obliged to give us feedback, and we were able to give them unsolicited advice. We found that our guidance was, in most cases, necessary and useful to the participants. A major problem we faced in the implementation process, is that it is almost impossible to get receipts for payments. Next to that, we found that most lecturers and school staff members are corrupt and levy extra charges, that are not being paid to the schools, but serve as an extra income for the individual employees. We were unable to provide for corruption money, which made it hard for our students to successfully go through the school program. For two students, we solved this problem by paying for extra classes, with the desired results. These two students were the only ones with good results. Although we had included lunch money in our project proposal, we decided to only give support for feeding to one participant (Ibrahim) who is a household head. Our participants had to pay for their own feeding, and in some cases, for their own lesson materials. Our participants informed us, only at the end of the year, that they had been unable to provide for these needs themselves which, for some of them, contributed to their failure. We encouraged the participants to ask for our advice and guidance, upon their own initiative. Some participants were getting unsolicited advice, checkups, and guidance. The latter group had an overall better result than the former.


COST OF IMPLEMENTATION

15

Transport

Le.

1.200.000

300

Transfer

-

200.000

-

50

Administrative

-

700.000

-

175

Communication

-

600.000

-

150

Lunchmeeting

-

900.000

-

225

Le.

3.600.000

900

Beneficiaries scholarships

Le.

9.280.000

2.336

Beneficiaries Activities

-

1.465.000

-

369

Project totals

Le.

10.745.000

2.705

Implementation costs

-

3.600.000

-

900

14.345.000

3.605

PROJECT TOTALS

Le.

Project benefits - Cost : 75% - 25%


MONITORING

17

We initially planned to monitor our participants as little as possible. Our target group consists of young adults, who we felt should have enough sense of responsibility. Next to that, we were set out to empower our participants, and to make them less dependent on others to build their lives. We would limit our involvement to the provision of the means that would enable our participants to rebuild their own lives. During the second semester of the academic year, we changed this approach when we noticed that some of our participants faced difficulties in their educational careers, and failed to notify us from their own initiatives. We visited their schools unannounced, and spoke to their teachers. We found that most of the participants do not regularly attend classes, and did not invest in lesson materials. We proved that some participants did not have the means to contribute to their own education, in those cases MTC provided for some of their lesson materials and extra classes. Furthermore, we spoke to some of their parents/caretakers to assess their home situations. We found that two of our participants had not been able to secure good lodging. MTC helped them to find a suitable place to live. Last, we asked the participants to write a report about their school performances, the change in their daily lives, and to identify persisting and/or recurrent problems in their lives.


ACTIVITIES PRICE

19

GIVING

To encourage our students, and to motivate them to get better results in school, we attended the price giving ceremony of one of the schools in Freetown, where 5 of our participants attend. Although none of our participants was awarded a price for „academic‟ achievement by the institution, we gave each of them a portable radio as a price for future merit. The radio was also intended to enable the participants to listen to BBC radio, to improve on their English. After the official school ceremony we took our participants out for a modest dinner and drinks in a popular bar. During this gathering, they exchanged ideas about societal and cultural values, and their educational struggles. We learned that our participants have weak social ties in society. This activity taught us that gatherings like these are important for the mental development of our participants and identification with their peer group.

CHRISTMAS PARTY To broaden the scope of the price giving ceremony and to broaden our participants‟ ties with peers, we gave a Christmas party in Bo and invited our participants in Freetown to meet with their colleagues in Bo for this occasion. Our goal was twofold: (one) to enhance their sense of belonging, and (two) to create an atmosphere in which they could exchange ideas and knowledge. The participants from Freetown stayed in the houses of the participants in Bo, to strengthen their ties, and to encourage interaction. The participants in Bo welcomed their colleagues in Freetown with a Christmas gift: a T-shirt with a self-designed print that signified their violent pasts and their peaceful futures. The activity created a new social group amongst our participants. A framework in which they could express themselves freely about their pasts as child soldiers. We learnt that successful reintegration is strongly related to our target group‟s own acceptance of their pasts.

GOING HOME Right after the Christmas party, we enabled the participants who have been away from their homes for a long time, to visit their families. The fact that they are now going to school and make serious effort to rebuild their own lives, enhanced acceptance and understanding in their communities, and motivated most of them to achieve a better life through education.


COST

21

Christmas Transport

Ibrahim, Jim, Sam, Musa, Paul, Ansu

Le.

240.000

60

Transfer cost

Bank transfer

-

15.000

-

4

Feeding

Support feeding for hosts

-

65.000

-

17

Party

Freetown – Bo Christmas Party

-

400.000

-

100

T-Shirts

Shirts & Printing

-

190.000

-

48

Transport

Paul, Musa, Jim, Ibrahim

-

145.000

-

37

Feeding

Paul, Musa, Jim, Ibrahim

-

60.000

-

15

Prices

Radios (5)

-

100.000

-

25

Party

Drinks & Food

-

150.000

-

38

Ceremonial Uniform

Andrew

-

100.000

-

25

1.465.000

369

Going Home

Price Giving

Le.


PARTICIPANTS Name

Education

Result

Program status

Ibrahim

Computer Training

Certificates

Continued education

Hassan

University

Passed

Other sponsoring

Lansana

University

Failed

Other sponsoring

Emmanuel

University

Failed

Other sponsoring

Emerson

College

Promoted

Continued education

John

Secondary School

Promoted

Other sponsoring

Jay

Secondary School

Promoted

Continued education

Teddy

Secondary School

Promoted

Continued education

Andrew

Secondary School

Promoted

Continued education

Musa

Secondary School

Failed

Out of the program

Paul

Secondary School

Failed

Second chance

Patrick

Secondary School

Failed

Second chance

Charles

Secondary School

Failed

Second chance

Jim

Secondary School

Promoted

Continued education

Mohamed

Secondary School

Failed

Second chance

Amadu

Secondary School

Passed

Continued education

Denis

Secondary School

Failed

Second chance

Abdul

Secondary School

Failed

Out of the program

Joe

Secondary School

Promoted

Continued education

Ansu

Secondary School

Failed

Second chance

Sam

Secondary School

Failed

Second chance

J. Sam

Secondary School

Passed

Under evaluation

Mohamed

Secondary School

Passed

Other sponsoring

Malcolm

Secondary School

Passed

Under evaluation


EVALUATION

23

The scholarship project had a „beneficiary centered‟ approach: the program was designed according to the needs of our target group. The needs of the target group were identified through anthropological research. The research period lasted for four months: from the initial group, a sample group of 25 was selected. Amongst the sample group were: 2 non-child soldiers, 7 former child soldiers, and 16 former child combatants. The selection was based on peer group identification, and handpicking by civilian advisors. All of the armed forces that participated in the civil war (RUF, NPRC, AFRC and CDF) were represented in the program.

GOAL The goal set for the pilot program was a success rate of 40%, considering lack of experience of the volunteers, our wish to actively involve the target group in the designing and implementation of the program, and (at that stage) unidentified factors. Targeted success factors: -

Achievement in education

-

Increased feeling of self worth

-

Increased independency

-

Increased integration into mainstream society

-

Increased feelings of trust in society

-

Increased future perspective

-

Decrease in alcohol/drug abuse

RESULTS 1. Achievement in education Success rate: 54% (13 passed/promoted, 11 failed) 2. Increased feeling of self worth Feelings of self worth are not easily measurable in percentages. Feelings are typically relative, and subject to „the moment‟. From our counseling and monitoring sessions, we have learned that at least 15 of the 24 participants have increased feelings of self worth, because of their participation in the scholarship program. The fact that finally, an organization (which is formed by people) is willing to regard them, and give them a chance, gives them the feeling


that they are worthy human beings. The broadcast of a radio interview with founder Ginny Mooy on one of the popular local radio stations in Bo Town, demonstrated that the participants gained more confidence because of their identification with the organization: they wore the TShirts they had designed and printed for the Christmas party with pride, proclaiming in the streets that they were the former child combatants commented on in the interview. For the first time since their disarmament, they no longer felt the need to hide their pasts as former child combatants (6 – 8 and in one case even 12 years after their participation), which we consider to be a giant step forward. Coming to terms with one‟s past is an important part of identity formation: former child soldiers typically feel embarrassment for their pasts, because of the negative reactions of their direct environment and the greater society. MTC asks the people to give them a fair chance, see them as „changed‟, and take into consideration that they were directly or indirectly forced to partake in the war, which still hampers them to (re)build their lives. The Sierra Leonean society is gradually changing its views about child soldiers, our message about and our assistance to former child soldiers reinforces this. A few participants who failed their exams, have decreased feelings of self worth. They feel that they should have performed better, considering the fact that they had less worries to cater for their own educational needs. Because of the small number of participants who have a decreased or equal feeling of self worth, we consider this factor to be successfully achieved. 3. Increased independency All of the participants are more independent on others because of their participation in the scholarship project. None of our participants still lives in a „slavery situation‟: living in with strangers who exploit their labor for lodging and a small meal per day. All of our participants were able to improve on their living conditions, to some extent. We assessed that, because they had to contribute towards their own education, the participants would also have an increased feeling of independence. Some of the participants, however, started solely depending on our assistance, and refused to put in for their own education. The money they made from odd jobs, was not invested in their education but, instead, in clothing and luxury items. For these participants, the project had an inverse effect. Two of these participants have been expelled from the program, some of them are under evaluation. Workshops and counseling will be given to them to change their mindsets. If they prove to be unable to change, MTC will either find other solutions to increase their will to become independent, or expel them from the project. 4. Increased integration into mainstream society As time progresses, the Sierra Leonean society becomes more receptive to the acceptance of former child soldiers into mainstream society. Many former child soldiers have


grown up to be mature and responsible members of societies: they have found jobs, they are maintaining their families and they are contributing to society. They serve as the example that former child soldiers can change. This has both a negative and a positive effect on the „group‟ of former child soldiers as a whole: on one hand, people are less afraid of them and gain more confidence in their abilities. But, on the other hand, the failure of a large group of former child soldiers to find their way(s) in society, is more and more contributed to their own disability, which makes it increasingly difficult for them to find understanding and support. Every sign of progress, is a sign to the public that they have changed for the better. Getting education is an important marker for status in the Sierra Leonean society. Hence, their participation in the project and their progress in education, increases their integration into mainstream society significantly. The participants themselves feel more part of and involved in society. This factor has a 100% success rate. 5. Increased feelings of trust in society This has not been achieved. Sierra Leoneans in general have weak trust in both the established peace, and their fellow country men and women. A heightened feeling of „need for independence‟ is still present in most Sierra Leoneans. The more former child soldiers learn about the war, and their own pasts, the more they feel exploited and misused by the adults who once recruited them. During the time they participated in the war, they were not or not fully aware of the objectives of their armed forces and their own (wrong)doings. The former child soldiers are slowly becoming aware of their own role(s) in the war, and feel increasingly betrayed. They are more motivated to become independent of other Sierra Leoneans, so that they can protect themselves from that kind of exploitation in the future. MTC contributes to the consolidation of peace in the country, through the reintegration of former child soldiers. The interests of the former child soldiers are our first concern, we therefore support the participants in their need for independence. We assess that this will enable the former child soldiers to build their own social networks, and ultimately gain trust in their society. 6. Increased future perspective MTC signals a slight increase in future perspective. Because the prolongation of their participation in the project is directly related to their achievement in education, the participants are aware of the conditionality of the project. The participants who are internally motivated to go through education, do have a great increase in future perspective. 7. Decrease in alcohol/drug abuse All participants have stopped regular intake of narcotics, and stopped the excessive use of alcohol. Some of our participants have indicated that they want to be actively involved in anti-drugs and anti-alcohol campaigns.


LESSONS LEARNED

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1: We‟ve faced difficulties reporting to sponsors about the progress of our participants and the costs related to our project because the participants did not handover their receipts and results in due time. Some participants never handed over any receipt for payments, which creates difficulties in our program administration and monitoring. Next to that, it has been consuming and costly to „run‟ after the participants to get report about their achievements, their receipts and results. These costs are unnecessary and can be otherwise invested. Therefore, participants should be more aware of their responsibilities to handover receipts and results. For our future project, the participants have to sign a contract that obliges them to handover receipts and results, and signal difficulties in their education promptly, upon their own initiative. Failure to comply to this rule will lead to their exclusion of the project. 2: Above mentioned weak factor in our project was caused (one) partly by the irresponsibility of some of our participants, and (two) partly because we operated without an office, making it difficult for our participants to contact us. We‟ve learned that our projects cannot be successfully implemented and monitored without office facilities. The second problem we faced was lack of transport facilities to conduct regular checkups on our participants. We had one target group in Freetown, and one target group in Bo. We made use of the public transport system to travel between our two project sites, but this turned out to be time wasting since the public transport system is unorganized, and irregular. A journey from Freetown to Bo by government bus, for example, starts at 4.30 am and ends at 14.00 pm. Former child soldiers cannot be found in one concentrated area in the country. In order to regularly travel between our project sites, to reach the remote areas, and to effectively implement and coordinate our projects in the future, MTC needs to find good means of transportation. 3: Most of our participants do not regularly attend classes. This has resulted in meager or even poor results for most of our participants, despite their efforts in self studies. Some of the participants have to work long hours to provide for themselves, which makes it impossible for them to attend classes on a regular basis. Next to that, our participants have been removed from civilian society for longer periods of time, during their participation in the war. Most of them still have trouble adjusting to family life, adjusting to the rules of strangers they live with, and school discipline. They do not relate well to their fellow classmates because of age differences, which makes it hard for our participants to feel connected to their classmates, and the schools they attend. In the second semester, MTC started checking up on the participants, by showing up in their schools unannounced, and by contacting their teachers. This, in general, was not appreciated by our participants, but it ultimately led to a better identification and understanding of their problems.


Two of the participants were given support to follow extra classes, because of their poor performance in school. Both participants performed significantly better after our interference. MTC has therefore decided to make these unannounced checkups part of the project. Our participants have to sign a contract in which they give MTC the permission to make enquiries about them, without notifying them, at their schools and their homes. Although we believe that our participants should be considered as competent adults, we have learnt that they do not signal problems in their educational career, from their own initiative. This measure is therefore meant to empower them, instead of controlling them. 4: Participation in a special project for former child soldiers might, in some cases, have a stigmatizing effect on our participants. But instead of designing programs for a broader target group, that can only incidentally accommodate former child soldiers, MTC plans to launch an awareness campaign to educate the society about child soldiering. We found that the Sierra Leonean society is receptive to our message, and that they – once educated – fully support our initiative to help former child soldiers reintegrate into society. Most Sierra Leoneans fear former child soldiers, and they understand the need of their inclusion in society. Another way of getting more acceptance from society for specialized programs for former child soldiers is a system in which society members point out the problem cases in their own communities. Next to that, MTC will plans to reserve 5% of its total program fund to help other groups of disadvantaged individuals in society (e.g. the war wounded, war orphans, and promising youths who cannot afford education).

CHALLENGES Lack of internal motivation: All of our participants, without exception, are motivated to get a diploma. Almost half of our participants, however, lack the internal motivation to gain knowledge, which makes it hard for them to be dedicated to their studies get good results. Our challenge is to teach our participants the importance of knowledge, and to teach them focus and concentration. We hope to achieve that through counseling and workshops. Lack of long term vision: A relatively large group of participants are typically focused on satisfying their short term needs, as is common in Sierra Leonean society. Without long term focus, however, it is difficult for them to make sacrifices for their futures. Our participants are required to invest in their own education, but because of their short term vision, they fail to invest money in, for example, lesson materials. They strive after buying luxury goods and clothing, rather than knowledge. This is partly caused by their past statuses and access to luxury goods during their participation in the war, and


partly by societal values in the Sierra Leonean society. Our challenge is to teach our participants to focus on long term development, rather than short term satisfaction. MTC hopes to achieve that through counseling and workshops. Spiritual healing: All participants in the pilot project have come to terms with their own acts as child soldiers vis Ă  vis civilians. Most of them, however, still need to come to terms with their acts related to their religion. MTC aims to help them in their spiritual healing through workshops and building bridges with the religious community.


WAY FORWARD

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Despite the hiccups and difficulties we underwent in the implementation phase of the program, we do consider our project to be overall successful. We achieved most of our set goals, with a more than satisfactory result. Our target group consists of adolescents, youths and adults, who have been on their own for almost all of their lives. Some of them are former street boys, some of them are former street criminals. This is an extremely hard group to integrate into society, yet all our participants now have permanent lodging, a future perspective, and are no longer in the criminal circuit. Our participants are currently engaged in education and work to rebuild their own lives. If they are still engaged in criminal activities, beyond our knowledge, it is contained to petty theft, based on their living conditions. Next to that, we managed to „sober up‟ all 21 (out of 25 participants) notorious drug and alcohol consumers. From the original pilot project group, 17 participants are still in the program. The number of participants will be expanded to 100. The success rate will be increased to 55%, based on the same success factors as the pilot project. We started out with solely male soldiers, for the coming year, we expand our projects to the female soldiers. All participants will be appointed a local mentor, preferably well integrated former child soldiers. Each mentor has a maximum capacity of 25 participants. The mentors will be coordinated by field coordinators, who in their turn answer to the operational manager. The operational manager is in charge of all programs and projects of MTC in Sierra Leone. The operational manager directly reports and answers to the executive body and/or its advisory staff. Next to the scholarships program, which focuses on theoretical knowledge, MTC launches a new pilot project “Know Your Skills” which focuses on practical knowledge. The goals for the skills training project will be the same as for the scholarship program, with an initial pilot group of 25 participants, and a success rate of 40%. MTC has plans to launch a “small enterprise project” and a microcredit project within the next two years. MTC has however decided to employ a „step-by-step‟ approach: growth will be in concordance with our capacities and we will first thoroughly test our projects, before applying them to a larger group of participants.


Report Mind to Change Pilot Project Scholarship for Child Soldiers (2007-2008)