PJ Cole’s Commonwealth story
On 19th April 2018, PJ Cole shared his story at the Formal Opening of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting at Buckingham Palace, alongside Her Majesty The Queen, and Prime Minister Theresa May. Here is his story.
I would like to share with you the remarkable story of how a group of former child soldiers have become community leaders and are rebuilding a nation.
Back in 1996, moved by the plight of child soldiers in Sierra Leone my parents rescued and invited over 800 young people into our lives. All were victims of war.
Pulling them out of the conflict and into our home, I shared clothes, food and my parents with them. Although they had committed many atrocities my father had a vision that with the right support, these children would be those who would rebuild the nation in the years to come.
Today a group of these former child soldiers with whom I shared my life are standing shoulder to shoulder with me. Together we are running four schools, a safe home and a vocational training centre. We are working with farmers; running businesses; rebuilding Sierra Leone.
Faced with the atrocities of the Ebola disease in 2014 our team of former child soldiers started a new fight: to end Ebola.
We designed an Ebola education programme which has equipped over 100,000 people with lifesaving knowledge;
We provided support to over 12000 quarantined individuals;
And we partnered with others to build an Ebola Clinic which treated over 270 people.
In the last 6 years we have had to respond to Ebola, cholera, floods and most recently a mudslide that killed 1141 people and left many young people orphaned. We have supported colleagues in Mozambique, Dominica and the United Kingdom in diverse ways.
During this week’s youth forum, a colleague pointed out that it’s time to move away from talk of including young people to recognising that young people are proffering solutions to the biggest challenges facing our Commonwealth.
And my experience bears that out.
– PJ Cole