Speaker: Former Child Soldier and Author of "A Long Way Gone"
Ishmael Beah was born in Sierra Leone on November 23, 1980. When he was 11, Beah’s life, along with the lives of millions of other Sierra Leoneans, was derailed by the outbreak of a brutal civil war. After his parents and two brothers were killed, Beah was recruited to fight as a child soldier. He was 13.
He fought for over two years before he was removed from the army by UNICEF and placed in a rehabilitation home in Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone. After completing rehabilitation in late 1996, Beah won a competition to attend a conference at the United Nations to talk about the devastating effects of war on children in his country. It was there that he met his new mother, Laura Simms, a professional storyteller who lives in New York. Beah returned to Sierra Leone and continued speaking about his experiences to help bring international attention to the issue of child soldiering and war affected children.
In "A Long Way Gone", Beah, now 26, tells a riveting story. At the age of 12, he fled attacking rebels and wandered a land rendered unrecognizable by violence. By 13, he’d been picked up by the government army, and Beah, at heart a gentle boy, found that he was capable of truly terrible acts.
Eventually released by the army and sent to a UNICEF rehabilitation center, he struggled to regain his humanity and to reenter the world of civilians, who viewed him with fear and suspicion.
This is, at last, a story of redemption and hope.