Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The Forgotten Children of Sierra Leone

All As One asks a sobering question, "Who paid for your diamond?"

More importantly when I look at the rings on my fingers, I think, "Who paid for MY diamonds?" When I glance at the beautiful princess cut stone I wear on my left hand, I wonder, "How would I ever know if a child worked to dig you from the ground and had his arm severed because he didn't find you fast enough?" These are sobering questions that hit at the core of who we are and what we value....want vs. and demand.

I think about the movie Blood Diamond and how I avoided seeing it..."too sad," I remember commenting. I realized something this morning, the children of Sierra Leone are born into this sadness. If they manage to be the one out of four that survives infancy, this sadness will be their destiny. Unless...and thank god there is always an "unless".

All As One was founded in 1997 in the midst of Sierra Leone's civil war. Rebels and government troops, alike, burtalized the citizens who remained, while thousands of others fled to neighboring countries. The war raged on for eleven years funded by the illicit trade in "conflict" or "blood" diamonds. Children were stolen and recruited as child soliders and ordered to kill or be killed. Limbs of old and young alike were hacked off in horrific acts of cruelty...calling cards left by both factions of the war.

Sierra Leone is slowly recovering since peace was established in 2002. All As One is down in the trenches, helping to provide education, food, housing, and medical care for distitute, orphaned, and abandoned children in Freetown, S.L.

For less than the cost of a three-bedroom house on the West Coast of the USA, they are raising money to expand their clinic, school, and children's center. Then, it's on to Phase Two of the project and raising the $260,000 needed to build the All As One Vocational College.

All As One promotes a program called Children Caring For Children in which they provide educational materials and ideas for school fundraising efforts to benefit the children of Sierra Leone.

It's heartwarming to see the efforts of children at Lakeside Elementary in Cincinnati, Ohio. 4th graders raised $638 for All As One and prepared for days with flashcards and notes to educate the entire school about the plight of children on the other side of the world.

Mrs. Drummond's class wrote personal letters to the children in Sierra Leone and tried their best to understand boys and girls who have nothing, maybe not even their hands or feet.

All As One needs worldwide exposure and support. Very few of us can drop everything and fly to Africa to teach or help in the office but we can buy tee-shirts, make donations, rally involvement in our churches and schools, or simply make a donation with the click of a button.

I'm pledging to never again buy, ask for, or desire another diamond. The price that's been paid is too high and the beauty of a healthy child will always outshine the brillance of any flawlessly cut stone.

For more indepth information about Sierra Leone and All As One go to

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