UFV students help combat recruitment and use of child soldiers in Africa

Two University of the Fraser Valley criminology practicum students are volunteering their time in support of the Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative and its efforts to develop new strategies and tactics for eradicating the recruitment and use of child soldiers worldwide. They are working with CKR Global, an international risk mitigation firm.

The students are preparing comprehensive research reports on issues relating to the incidence of child soldiers and potential avenues for prevention in Chad and South Sudan.

Marie Verbenkov and Jeff Schneider will be researching the nature of child soldier activities and human rights implications in Chad and South Sudan. Their work will complement training that security sector workers receive on the ground from Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative team members.

The students will act as an additional resource in the field by creating detailed country reports that are designed as an extension to the handbook and training for security sector actors developed by the Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative. The country reports provide specific information in terms of child protection and child soldiery in support of their mission to end the exploitation of children as soldiers and to help enhance child rights in fragile states and conflict zones.

“I appreciate the opportunity to work on an issue of such great magnitude that can make a real impact on young lives,” said Verbenkov.  “I am looking forward to contributing in a positive, meaningful manner to help eliminate the use of child soldiers worldwide, including in Chad and South Sudan. This is a fantastic learning opportunity and I am excited to engage in a project that can help the future of children.”

”This is an incredible opportunity to be working in support of the Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative,” added Schneider. “It truly is an eye-opening experience to see what goes on in other parts of the world and I’m excited to do my part to help the cause.”

“The research these students are doing will have very practical, real-world application in helping peacekeepers and security forces understand how children are being used as weapons of war in specific conflicts and help them to interrupt recruitment and better protect children,” said Dr. Shelly Whitman, executive director of The Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative.

“This is our first time supporting the great work of the Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative and we are excited by what we can do to help,” said Robert Burns, president and CEO of CKR Global, Canada’s leading risk mitigation and investigation firm. “This is the start of our fourth year working with UFV criminology practicum students and it’s been a tremendous experience for us helping them learn about international risk mitigation and human safety.”

Kim Williams, criminology field practicum coordinator at UFV, said practicums such as this one help prepare students for careers.

“Faculty with the UFV School of Criminology and Criminal Justice have partnered with outstanding organizations like CKR Global  to create the best practicum experience possible for our students,” she said. ”These practicums, combined with the course and research opportunities within the school, contribute to our graduates being well positioned for exciting careers in criminal justice, by exposing them to project work that enhances their critical thinking, problem solving, and ability to contribute to a socially just world.”

“We are very excited to see our students involved in this work. These partnerships continue to provide experiential learning opportunities for our students and enhance our passion for student success, faculty engagement, and community involvement,” said Amy Prevost, director of the UFV School of Criminology. “This is also a great example of the type of international experiences available to UFV students. Our university strives to provide our students and graduates with opportunities to have a positive impact both locally and beyond.”

“Our work with the Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative and UFV practicum students dovetails nicely with our ongoing support over the past ten years of UNICEF child rights and justice reform projects in East Africa, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia,” said Burns. “Where it is safe, we have involved UFV practicum students in this work so that they have an immersive experience in another culture and justice system while also gaining practical human rights experience.”

“We appreciate the opportunity to work with CKR Global and the UFV practicum students to further our mission to bring an end to the use of children as weapons of war,” added Whitman.

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