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How a civil war inspired a child to be a leader

POSTED July 8, 2019

How a civil war inspired a child to be a leader

Find out about a partnership CCFC is building with the South Sudanese minister of gender, child and social welfare

By Patrick Canagasingham, CEO

Patrick with South Sudanese minister

“Anything is possible.”

Those are the words of eternal optimist, peacemaker and child advocate, The Honourable Awut Deng Acuil, minister of gender, child and social welfare for the Republic of South Sudan.

At their core, they’re the thoughts of a woman who remembers being a valued part of an African community before her life was challenged by conflict, the death of two brothers, loss of land, marriage as a teenager and life as a young widow.

The minister’s story intrigued me, so I began to investigate how Christian Children’s Fund of Canada (CCFC) could collaborate with her.

The fit is obvious, but it isn’t the obstacles she has overcome that amazes me (although they do), it’s that she never gave up on her future. She educated herself through war, motherhood and life as a refugee. She understands why people our supporters help need education to thrive.

The minister was determined to become part of the solution as her homeland struggled through a long civil war. She joined the liberation struggle in 1984 and was involved in negotiations to secure South Sudan’s independence in 2011.

And, today the winner of a peace award puts children, women and the rights of the disabled at the centre of what her government holds dear.

She’s never forgotten what it felt like to be a child who was informed, educated and invited to participate in shaping her future.

“Education is the key for any nation to prosper,” she told me during a recent lunch meeting. “It’s important to invest in our children and ensure their well-being.”

That’s the message my team and our local partners bring to the communities where we work. Everything we do connects to our mission, backed by a strategy, to help children access school and stay in school. It’s essential they gain the skills they need to reach their dreams and prosper as adults.

So, as my lunch with the minister drew to a close, I was struck by the profound impact we — the South Sudanese government, CCFC and other members of the global community — can make together.

Our decision to explore ways we can collaborate to make sure children are given space and knowledge to voice their fears, hopes and dreams, is beyond exciting; it’s an extension of our dreams and those of our supporters.

Imagine the possibilities. Stay tuned for more news on this budding partnership.

In the meantime, join CCFC on our journey today. You can start by supporting a child’s education through our gift catalogue. You’ll be glad you did.

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Children Believe works globally to empower children to dream fearlessly, stand up for what they believe in — and be heard. For 60+ years, we’ve brought together brave young dreamers, caring supporters and partners, and unabashed idealists. Together, we’re driven by a common belief: creating access to education — inside and outside of classrooms — is the most powerful tool children can use to change their world.

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