I was raised in the civil war that gripped Sri Lanka for 30 years. The conflict was hard on my parents. It’s not easy to bring children into a world of violence. When I was 11, a huge massacre decimated my village. My father was fortunate to survive. We children lost our school. Many joined armed groups. Many died. I was lucky. The bishop got me away to Batticaloa Town, where I continued my education and learned English.
Later, working in media put my life in danger, and I had to leave Sri Lanka in 2005. But my heart never left home. The drive to help my people cope with the day-in, day-out struggle of life in a war zone stayed with me. My grounding in child protection came from working with a Swiss-based organization focused on children’s rights and helping kids overcome the devastation of the Sri Lankan war and the wreckage of the tsunami. In time, I took all I learned back home and became a child protection officer. Government services for children were very limited, and I worked with authorities, communities and parents as an advocate and educator on behalf children’s rights.
For years, I dreamt of an organization dedicated to civilian protection. My dream was realized when NP hired me. I was deployed to Batticaloa District, where my fluency in the country’s three languages and my native knowledge of the culture and personal experience of war were professional assets. I remember the challenge of working with two communities trading in abductions and killings. Nonpartisanship proved vital as we worked toward earning the trust of both sides in order to open dialogue, which in turn required providing a safe, neutral gathering space.
After more than 10 days of intensive protection and prevention work, the conflict was arrested and tensions de-escalated. Helping mend relationships and giving people a chance to come together and heal — that’s what NP is all about.
That’s the power behind unarmed civilian peacekeeping.
After more than 10 days of intensive protection and prevention work, the conflict was arrested and tensions were de-escalated. Helping mend relationships and giving people a chance to come together and heal – that’s what NP is all about. That’s the power behind unarmed civilian peacekeeping.
It is a privilege now to take my Sri Lankan experience to Sudan. It’s my passion to ensure children hurt by violence are protected and come to know what safety and hope feel like. No child should see loved ones murdered, suffer abduction, be forced to kill or to endure sexual enslavement. We cannot undo what’s been done, but we can help children who’ve lived such hardship heal, and we can protect others vulnerable to such atrocities.
The chance to work with the brave and resilient children of Western and Central Equatoria state humbles me. I pledge to dedicate to them my experience with the effects of conflict upon children, and my specific knowledge of the issues children subject to armed recruitment face. All of us at NP are working to ensure these beautiful children have a chance to resume lives so cruelly arrested by abduction.
— Aseervathan Florington