The butterflies of Liberia: transforming the lives of former child soldiers
Key Excerpts from Article on Website of Positive News
Posted: October 23rd, 2023
In Liberia, two brutal civil wars have produced a generation of traumatised young men. Anthony Kamara likes to use the analogy of a butterfly emerging from its chrysalis. It’s an old story, he admits, but useful in reaching through the years of compounded shame that form the exterior skin of Liberia’s lost and marginalised young men. “I tell the men that their true colours are there, hidden within them,” says Kamara, 32, a former street drug user and a facilitator for a radical Liberian mental health nonprofit Network for Empowerment and Programme Initiatives (Nepi). Nepi targets Liberia’s most marginalised men – street dwellers, petty criminals, chronic drug users: traumatised ex-combatants and their sons with anger issues and little to live for – in an effort to ripple benefits across Liberia’s population, 68% of whom are living on less than $1.90 (£1.60) a day. Nepi offers a tailored combination of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and cash transfers to young people who are at the highest risk for violent behaviour, in a programme called Sustainable Transformation of Youth in Liberia (Styl). Styl has since helped tens of thousands of young men in Liberia, with studies on the project finding that men receiving therapy with cash were half as likely as a control group to engage in antisocial behaviours, with beneficial impacts concentrated in the highest-risk men.
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