Pedro: Peacekeeper in East-Timor
Little did Pedro know that when he was photographed in East Timor walking peacefully with a group of children, his image would become an enduring symbol of the United Nations effort to maintain international peace and security.
The country was, at the time, ravaged by violence and its people internally displaced after they voted for independence from Indonesia in 1999. Pedro was a captain among the first Portuguese peacekeepers to be deployed with the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor . He arrived shortly after the Security Council established the peacekeeping operation.
“As a peacekeeper, I felt like being part of history because everything was really changing in this country,” he said.
During the first month of his mission, Pedro was on patrol near the local market in the Becora district of the capital Dili, and was joined spontaneously by a group of children. “These kids seemed to be so happy that they could follow us everywhere we went,” he said.
Bernadette: Protector in the Democratic Republic of Congo
To the local Congolese, Bernadette is known as the “Savior of Children.” Stationed in Ituri, the northeast province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo , Bernadette is a Child Protection Advisor and helps to stop the recruitment and re-recruitment of children by armed groups. In addition, she draws attention to the importance of supporting these children as they re-enter civilian society.
Often, she travels to remote, troubled areas by helicopter to reach children in need. She has to work quickly on these missions because security conditions prevent pilots from waiting for more than a few hours on the ground.
A national of Senegal, she became a UN Peacekeeper following the completion of her doctoral degree in Human Rights, specializing in child welfare in developing countries. She is inspired by seeing how resilient children truly are. “Once they enter the camps, they get food and are given a shower, clean clothes and protection. The next day, they are unrecognizable, as their fatigue and hunger has disappeared.”
Christopher: Deminer in Lebanon
During the 34-day conflict between Israel and Lebanon in 2006, an estimated 40 square kilometers of land became contaminated with hundreds of thousands of unexploded cluster munitions. Christopher and his team at the UN Mine Action Coordination Centre of South Lebanon have been working tirelessly, in conjunction with non-governmental organizations, commercial companies, the Lebanese Armed Forces and UNIFIL, the UN peacekeeping mission, to remove these dangerous cluster munitions and help to facilitate the safe return of civilians displaced by the conflict.
Efforts to clear cluster munitions rapidly reduced the human and economic toll. Since clearance operations and measures to educate the public about the dangers of cluster munitions began two years ago, the civilian accident rate dropped from about 57 a month in 2006 to about two a month today.
As a result of their important work, Christopher and his team were awarded the 2008 United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Nansen-Refugee Award. Its previous recipients include Eleanor Roosevelt, King Juan-Carlos I of Spain, and Queen Juliana of the Netherlands.
Ana Maria: Educator in Brazil
On the outskirts of Recife , a town on Brazil ’s beautiful northern coast, children pick through the trash at the Olinda garbage dump in search of bottles and cans to be re-sold. Sadly, despite national laws that forbid child labour, the income generated from this work often means the difference between starvation and survival for the child’s family.
Yet, Ana Maria works each day with families to break the cycle of poverty through providing alternatives to child labour. Ana Maria runs education and child development initiatives for Fazer Valeros Direitos, a UNICEF programme. One such programme is Bolsa Escola, which offers renewable scholarships that allow children to go to school while providing them with an income. Children are paid either in cash or in-kind and are allowed to take basic educational courses in the morning and go to enrichment activities, such as music and art, in the afternoon.
Ana Maria works closely with families to make the programme a success — visiting parents at home, monitoring living conditions, and assisting with scholarship paperwork. Her reward is seeing young people regain their childhoods and realize that life offers opportunities they never dreamed were possible.
Emilya: Volunteer in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
Emilya is piecing together the fragmented history of a brutal civil war. As a United Nations Volunteer, Emilya’s task it is to carefully document abuses that occurred. Not only does she hear the testimonies of survivors, but she also examines the physical reminders of war, such as shell casings and bone fragments.
Emilya’s detective work, although difficult, has important consequences for both the present and future — a powerful commander was convicted based on evidence that she had gathered, connecting him to the murder of 33 civilians.