On August 12th, International World Youth Day, we celebrate the right of every child to enjoy a childhood.

So, what does childhood look like exactly? Let’s take a look.

Let’s start with play.

All children deserve the right to play. Through play, kids develop imagination, problem solving skills and begin understanding concepts like equality, tolerance and justice. Play allows children to be creative and form bonds with those around them.

Unless you are from South Sudan and you have been forced to flee your home. You will probably have left everything behind. In a refugee camp, survival is the priority. Even finding somewhere to play is often impossible. That is why War Child sets up safe spaces where children can play and reclaim a little normalcy in an otherwise destabilizing environment.

War Child, South Sudan

The right to learn.

Every kid has the right to receive an education. In the classroom, you’ll learn the skills needed to read and write, and learn how to act as a responsible member of society. You’ll also begin questioning the world around you – be prepared to be amazed.

Unless you’re a girl in eastern Congo and you’re at risk of being attacked, raped or killed on your way to school. Or your parents cannot afford the nominal school fees and you have to stay home. This is why War Child has developed a unique distance learning program using the power of the most common technology in sub-Saharan Africa – radio. We are broadcasting education right to the most vulnerable children.

The right to be protected.

Your parents won’t let anything bad happen to you. They will protect you, love you and provide for you until you complete your studies and are able to find dignified employment and build a future for yourself.

Unless you are one of the 15,000 unaccompanied and separated refugee children to have crossed Syria’s boarders according to UNICEF. You will have to rely on the generosity of strangers. This is why War Child is working with both Syrian refugees and their Jordanian hosts, to help develop understanding between communities facing very different challenges.

The reality is, childhood for some is far more ideal than it is for others. Instead of enjoying a youth filled with opportunities to play, learn and grow in a safe environment, childhood for millions of kids around the world has been completely defined by conflict, hunger, disease, labour, exploitation, abuse and neglect. Which is why the work we do is so very important.

Where Childhood Thrives, War Does Not

A lot of people ask us about this tagline. Don’t we mean the reverse? Without war, kids can thrive? That phrase might be true but it isn’t what we are getting at.

When you invest in a child, you break the cycle of poverty, anger, and desperation that leads to war.  A child who plays is a child who is not joining a militia and learning how to use a gun. A child who attends school is a child who is learning about how that which unites us is so much stronger than that which divides. And a child whose parents are able to provide, will not be forced into exploitative work or forced into early marriage.

It is War Child’s mission to bring education, opportunity and justice to war-affected children and their families. On International World Youth Day, let’s redefine what it means to experience childhood, regardless of where you are in the world.

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