Saving a Generation

Pictured, from left: Joe and Sharon Donnelly with the cheque presented to Peter Byrne, director of Christian Aid Ireland. Image supplied by Joe Donnelly.

Pictured, from left: Joe and Sharon Donnelly with the cheque presented to Peter Byrne, director of Christian Aid Ireland.
Image supplied by Joe Donnelly.

The Anchorage Project on York Road is a fond fixture of the Ringsend area, a community hub and a point of pride for locals, for their heartfelt community endeavours and ongoing charitable concerns.

Their latest fundraising effort deals with a heavy subject that haunts the headlines of the mainstream: the plight of children swept up in the harsh realities of guerrilla warfare. The funds raised by Anchorage projects over the course of 2014 culminated in raising €20,000, which will go towards the rehabilitation of Congolese children who have been forcibly drafted into service as child soldiers.

Even those who may know little about the specifics of the conflicts in the Congo are somewhat aware of the shocking circumstances which have arisen there and which still come to the fore of world attention. Like many African nations, the politics on the ground are defined by tribal nationalities rather than the lines we might see on a map of the continent.

Since 2004, the Congo has been sadly defined in the world’s eyes by conflict between the forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, grand-sounding institutional names which embody conflicts that are modern and arguably legitimate, and also considerably older ethnic tensions.

Speaking with Joe Donnelly, director of the Anchorage Project and a no-doubt familiar face to NewsFour readers and regulars at the Fair Play Café, he explained that each year the net proceeds from that year’s fundraising are donated to charitable causes abroad or at home. “We pick a cause from the developing world, and then every fifth year, we pick an Irish cause. This year it’s Africa’s turn.”

Since the Anchorage takes a special interest in concerns related to children, the predicament of child soldiers came to their attention. “I recently did a Master’s degree, in History and the Humanities, and while I was researching on the topic of Hope, I learned about the situation in the Congo in more detail. For this particular project, we did a lot of research.”

The desperate circumstances rebel militias find themselves in motivates them to abduct children or conscript orphans to fight their cause. The United Nations – whose peace-keeping forces have also become embroiled in the conflicts – has estimated that one in 10 of all child soldiers globally are found in the Democratic Republic of Congo and that 15% to 30% of all new recruits are under the age of 18.

The objective of the rehabilitation programme that the donations will fund is to reintegrate 116 child soldiers back into community life with training in a vocational trade and the opportunity to set up some kind of small-scale enterprise.

Local community leaders will also be encouraged to support the reintroduction of the children into society. The training will be documented and shared with media outlets by the Bureau Oecuménique d’Appui au Développement (BOAD), a non-governmental organisation based in North Kivu in the Congo where the conflict is concentrated. It is intended that 95% of the children will have completed their training within six months of commencement.

The Anchorage have their sights set on Latin America for their 2015 contributions, so keep an eye on NewsFour or drop in on the Anchorage for lunch to see how things are going.

By Rúairí Conneely