A child soldier is anyone under the age of 18 who is recruited to fight in an army, whether government run or not. Child soldiers can be both boys and girls, and they have been used as "fighters, porters, couriers, spies, guards, suicide bombers or human shields, or to perform domestic duties", according to Child Soldiers International. And child soldiers are in more countries than you'd think - in Thailand, the Philippines, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, India, Colombia, and more.
"A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier" paints a grim picture. Young child soldiers are often forced to kill, or be killed. In some instances, they may barely weigh enough to carry a gun. Once these children are freed from the army, returning to "regular" life may be nearly impossible. Many will have lost family members in village raids, and may have no one to return to. Nearly all will be saddled with the heavy weight of PTSD.
I've written about Falling Whistles before, but one of their videos (posted below), has always hit home for me:
Check out some of the organizations below to learn more, donate, or find other courses of action.