The young Andrew Benson Greene, Jr. is a powerful model of peace in his home country of Sierra Leone. Though his life has been surrounded with violence and war, Andrew continually has chose to pursue actions that lead to peace. His efforts have changed countless lives during the war, and his innovative rehabilitation techniques have caught the attention of world leaders.
After decades of British colonial rule and rule by corrupt semi-independent governments, rebel groups formed the Revolutionary United Front (RUF). Between 1991 and 2002 the RUF began forcibly recruiting child soldiers to fight on their behalf. Over the course of the war over 50,000 people were killed, 12,000 children abducted and hundreds of thousands were displaced. Andrew was a natural leader before the war, a member of his school’s drama group, a columnist for his school newspaper and a school prefect. At the age of 10, Andrew had been sent to a boarding school in Western Sierra Leone, but even there he was not safe and was eventually forced to flee to neighboring Guinea.
“Just as it takes acts of war to make war, it takes acts of peace to make peace.” -Greene
Like many youth who came of age during the war, the lack of parental role models and the psychological effects of the violence damaged the stability of an entire generation. Instead of giving in to the violence and chaos, Andrew chose to become a leader of positive change in his community and decided to educate youth about actions and attitudes of peace. While at the refugee camp, Andrew began teaching English and literature to the other refugees. He also used his spare time to volunteer with local human rights and peace organizations creating peace and advocacy materials. As the war stretched on, Andrew furthered his own education by earning a Bachelor’s degree in English Civil Law and International Relations from the University of Sierra Leone. Though the civil war still continued after his graduation, Andrew jumped at the opportunity to co-found the International Education and Resource Network (iEARN)in 1999. iEARN was created to end violence by educating and re-training former child soldiers to chose peace over violence.
“you are giving your life to help others, so don’t relent, be steadfast and courageous, and do it with a loving and peaceful heart.” – Greene
Andrew began with transporting former child soldiers to internet cafés and then slowly acquired recycled computers and low cost technology that could be used to provide the youth with access to the internet. After training the youth, he encouraged them to use their new skills to exchange ideas about peace online as a way to cleanse their thoughts from the agonies of war. Slowly the youth began recovering from the war and redirecting their energy towards becoming positive agents in social issues around them. As iEARN continued to grow Andrew was able to reach out to non-profit organizations to acquire new computers and grow their recovery and training programs.
Andrew’s organization continues to develop new ways for youth to cope with the effects of war through overcoming barriers of communication between youth in conflict and conflict-free zones. Some of their newest programs help youth communicate about and overcome the tragedies of war through art, creative writing, music recording and video production. Andrew has been asked to travel to over 16 countries to present on his groundbreaking approach by not only rehabilitating youth from war, but also providing training in 21st century skills that the former child soldiers will be able to use to create a stable and peaceful society.
“The best thing about my experience is to see youth who have been scarred by the war leave those horrid memories behind and become productive global citizens.” – Greene
After being awarded multiple prestigious scholarships and fellowships, Andrew is currently a double Masters candidate for a MA program in Coexistence and Conflict which he hopes to use to design curriculum and training materials to support education for peace building, human rights and conflict resolution. Andrew Benson Greene, Jr. is a great example of a Moral Hero because of his character of peace, his relentless efforts to redeem youth from the horrors of war and his dedication to using education and training as a tool to create peacemakers for the future.
Andrew on Facebook