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A Long Way

Gone: Memoirs
of a Boy Soldier
By: Susan Lai, Joelle Loo, Bailee
Johnstone, and Justyn Dorchak

A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier

Book: A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier
Author: Ishmael Beah
Published: 2007


Setting: Takes place during the civil war in Sierra Leone (1991 - 2002)

Ishmael & his friends travel to Mattru Jong to rap in a talent show

Rebels attack their home village, Mogbwemo

Then, rebels attack Mattru Jong boys escape

Travel from village to village

Rebels continues to attack villages

Boys separated
Ishmael reunited with boys he knew from school/travelled with them

Summary continued

Captured by soldiers and taken to Yele

Put through training
Used white tablets (drugs) to boost energy in order to kill rebels

UNICEF men took the child soldiers to Freetown

Fights broke out

Taken to Benin Home, a rehab center

The United Nations Children's Emergency Fund is a United Nations program headquartered in
New York City that provides long-term humanitarian and developmental assistance to children
and mothers in developing countries. Child rights begin with safe shelter, nutrition, protection
from disaster and conflict and traverse the life cycle: pre-natal care for healthy births, clean
water and sanitation, healthcare and education. (About UNICEF, 2016)

Summary continued

In rehab

Acted like caged animals

Kindness and forgiveness calmed the boys down
Ishmaels first breakthrough: Nurse brought him a Walkman and a rap cassette
Met his uncle (Ishmaels new father)

Leslie, Ishmaels caseworker, encouraged Ishmael to apply to join the

United Nations in New York

Met and bonded with storyteller, Laura Simms

Summary continued

Flew back home

Encountered war: civil war in Sierra Leone

Feared hell be a child soldier again

Contacted Laura Simms
Laura Simms helped Ishmael escape

Lived with Laura Simms ever since

Ishmael Beah

Issues raised in the book


Social norms being broken

Child soldiers


Loss of innocence


Low trust/morale during wartimes

Shifting political views

Main Issue: Child

Soldiers in the Book


Boys Ishmael was with

Other child soldiers rescued

Children feared by strangers

Article from Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Article 4: No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave
trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.
Article 5: No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or
degrading treatment or punishment.

Health/Human Rights Issues Worldwide

Child Soldier defined by UNICEF

Any child, boy or girl,
under the age of 18 who is
part of any kind of regular
or irregular armed force or
armed group in any

What is a
child soldier?

Health/Human Rights Issues Worldwide

History of Child Soldiers

American Child Soldiers

Civil War: children served in the army.

In 1863 Willie Johnston was awarded the

Medal of Honor at the age of 13.
World Wars: age restriction


Hitler Youth

Health/Human Rights Issues Worldwide (cont.)

There are estimated to be between
250,000 and 300,000 child soldiers
worldwide today.
At least 14 countries are known to use
child soldiers.
40% are female.
Not all see combat.

Health and Human Rights Issues Worldwide (cont.)

Few countries have
rehabilitation for the young
Some are forced to kill family
Some are part of government
military organizations; others are
kidnapped by different nonmilitary organizations.

Health/Human Rights Issues Worldwide (cont.)

Why do children not leave the first chance
they get?(Ozerdem et al)
Socialization (group becomes the norm)
& ideological indoctrination
Sometimes ends in a better life than
No family/village to go back to
Differences between child and adult in
life skills and decision making.

Health/Human Rights Issues Worldwide (cont.)

Examining Reintegration:
Highly difficult
Many different outcomes based on a
variety of factors including age of child,
how long in army, and location.
Success and failure difficult to measure
Becoming a soldier marks a transition
away from the normal and accepted,
hence returning to a prior set of rules can
be a significant challenge (Ozerdem et


About UNICEF. (2016, March 3). Retrieved April 28, 2016, from
Child soldiers. (2014). Retrieved April 28, 2016, from
Ozerdem, A., & Podder, S. (2011). Child soldiers: From recruitment to reintegration. Houndmills, Basingstoke,
Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan. Retrieved from

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