I have wondered what it was like for Naw Eva* to watch her father being burned to death in a village in Myanmar when she was two years old. After pouring fuel on him, Burma army soldiers lit him on fire and forced the villagers to watch him die. Then she had to flee with her mother and sister. “I was so young. I do not remember that it happened. I have just heard the story from my mother and relatives,” she explains. Her face radiates intelligence and determination.

Naw Eva may doubt the memory of the day her father died. Still, it is probably the day that has affected her life more than any other. Her trauma is triggered by random events, and affects her in ways she is likely unaware of.

It is for Naw Eva and the millions of children like her that have survived the terrors of war that I am asking you to join the Novi community. Rather than looking away when faced with the needs of the world, this is a chance for you to exercise generosity and give a gift that will impact the youngest victims of war.

You know this, I am sure:

During conflict and war, children get shot at, expect to die, see loved ones killed, people tortured and hurt.  Experiences like these leave both emotional and spiritual scars that can last a lifetime. Even when imminent danger has passed, children are triggered and re-live their traumas resulting in being filled with aggression, rage, shame, guilt, and a host of other damaging states, which again will influence their behavior and quality of life.

Not only that, but traditional family networks, which normally would give comfort and emotional support to children in crisis, are fragmented or destroyed. Whole communities and everything safe and familiar to a child is destroyed. Parents are often stripped of their capacity to shelter and protect their kids. War impacts whole families and communities, the ones who normally would have been the ones to nurture a traumatized child. Childhood in a war zone can be defined with one word: loss. The loss of innocence and beliefs, identity and family history, the right to survive, to healthcare, education, protection and nutrition. Children of war lose their ability to trust other people and to look to the future with confidence.

It should not be this way.

Considering the odds, Naw Eva’s life turned out better than expected. She ended up in a refugee camp where she got to go to school and was relatively safe. This is not the case for so many others.

Novi is dedicated to giving children like Naw Eva back some of their lost childhood. We may not be able to stop the war, but we can restore some of the essential provisions war has deprived them of, and help heal the trauma that often plagues them for the rest of their lives.

Novi trains lay counselors in trauma care for children, giving them tools to help them heal. We build/restore schools destroyed by armed conflict and train teachers. We work with local communities, arranging trauma-informed creative events and sports camps that help rebuild community cohesiveness and a stronger sense of belonging with each other. Novi provides healthy food in places where children go hungry or are denied nutritious food due to the poverty and destruction of services in the aftermath of war.

In two weeks I’ll be in Ukraine with my team, working to grow these interventions for children throughout the country.

That’s why I’m writing today. With laser-focus on helping children of war recover from trauma, we’re building a new community. One generous family believes so much in this work, they have agreed to match anyone who commits to being a monthly supporter for up to $500 dollars per month. For example, if you sign up to give 50 dollars per month, they will match your gift for a total of $100. dollars per month for the rest of the year. That means that your year-end total would be $600 dollars, but because of the matching fund it is doubled and becomes $1200 dollars!

They will double all monthly gifts up to $500 dollars per month for the rest of 2022.

I’ve worked with children in war zones for 29 years and have found that when people work together to make a difference in the world, surprising and wonderful things happen. I said yes to support an orphaned child in Sho-klo refugee camp in 1994 and that one $30 dollar commitment turned into an organization that helped millions of refugees and displaced people get life-saving support. Now, with concentrated focus on children who survive war, lets press on and work together to get children off the battlefield and into the classroom. Will you join the Novi community by giving today? As much as children’s future is in all our hands, our future is also in theirs. For Naw Eva and all children impacted by war.

Oddny Gumaer

*Name changed to protect her identity. Photo is a young girl from the same tribe, but is not Naw Eva.


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