VIDEO: Former child soldier cares for trafficked children

CNN’s Sanjay Gupta interviews former child soldier Sano Ray. Now the program manager of World Vision’s Children in Crisis program in Cambodia, Sano has dedicated his life to helping children recover from exploitation.

By Shawna Templeton, World Vision U.S.
Published July 13, 2012 at 12:00am PDT

Sano Ray was a child soldier in Cambodia, conscripted by the Khmer Rouge in the Cambodian civil war of the 1970s.

He recently shared his story with CNN’s Sanjay Gupta.

From tragedy to hope

As a child, Sano witnessed unspeakable atrocities. He was taken from his family at age 15.

Sano has turned his past suffering into an offering of hope. Because of the exploitation he experienced as a child, Sano has committed his life to caring for exploited children.

He now serves as the program manager for World Vision’s Children in Crisis program in Cambodia. 

At World Vision’s Trauma Recovery Center in Phonm Phen, girls who were victims of trafficking and sexual exploitation receive help in the form of counseling, medical examinations, vaccinations, and education.

They also participate in creative and skill-building activities, such as weaving, planting vegetables, dancing, and sports.

“I want them to have big dreams for themselves,” Sano says of the children he serves. “This is the thing that helps make joy in my heart.” 

Child soldier conscription a global problem

While child soldier use is no longer a problem in Cambodia, the abuse continues to persist in many parts of the world.

An estimated 250,000 children are forced to fight in wars around the world — some as young as 9. Children conscripted into military service are used as front-line combatants, suicide bombers, mine sweepers, sex slaves (especially girls), and spies.

Seven countries (pdf) are known to use children in their national armies — Myanmar, Libya, Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Sudan, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen.

United States still provides aid to countries using child soldiers

In 2009, Congress passed the Child Soldier Prevention Act (CSPA) — a bill to prevent U.S. taxpayer money from supporting armies that use child soldiers. World Vision and our supporters advocated for the passage of this bill.

However, the current administration has failed to implement the law and is giving some offending countries a free pass — the Democratic Republic of Congo, Libya, Somalia, South Sudan, and Yemen. 

“It is shameful that a portion of federal funding continues to help support governments who are using children as weapons,” says Jesse Eaves, World Vision’s policy advisor for children in crisis.

World Vision and other organizations that advocate for the protection of children are urging the White House to start enforcing the CSPA without delay.

How you can help

Thank God for the way he has worked in the Sano's life. Pray for children who are forced to fight. Pray that they would be freed from the armies in which they are forced to serve. Pray for successful reintegration into society for these children.

Give monthly to help provide care to children in conflict. Each month, you’ll help deliver critical care for children and communities terrorized by war and conflict, through interventions like counseling and rehabilitation; access to clean water, food, and healthcare; peacebuilding activities to help foster conflict resolution; and more.

Contact the White House. Tell President Obama to stop providing military assistance to countries that use child soldiers. Urge him to enforce the Child Soldier Prevention Act immediately.