(L-R) Sarah Rafferty, Troian Bellisario, Arwa Damon, Patrick J. Adams, and Samantha Nutt attend the Good For A Laugh comedy fundraiser featuring Sarah Silverman and Friends to support War Child USA at Largo At The Coronet on March 01, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. © Photo by Rich Fury/Getty Images
By Raye Mocioiu
War damages every aspect of a child’s life. Between stripping their families of vital means of support to taking away their access to education and legal protection, war makes it impossible for a child to enjoy their childhood.
For these children, every day is a struggle. The things that many of us take for granted can be life-threatening for them, conflict throws everyday life into chaos, and the uncertainty of what’s to come is a constant stressor.
“People are good at reacting to emergency situations,” said War Child Founder and President Samantha Nutt. “But there’s a tendency to move onto the ‘next big crisis’ when issues are less immediate.”
Humanitarian organizations, Nutt explained, often focus on the short-term needs of communities in crisis. While these measures can be incredibly helpful, they leave a gap in long-term support, dealing with the conditions that contribute to violence and instability. War Child exists to fill that gap, to break the cycle of poverty, violence, and despair that so many are facing in war-torn communities. Even when the headlines disappear, War Child remains on the ground, knowing that the work is not over yet.
For over 20 years, War Child has worked with children and their families at the frontline of the world’s major crises, from Iraq to Afghanistan and beyond. War Child uses a bold, community-driven approach to deliver programs that give children the best chance to overcome the challenges of war and grow up to see a brighter future.
Over its two decades of service, War Child has grown to reach over 600,000 people annually and has amassed support from celebrity changemakers like Pretty Little Liars actress Troian Bellisario and Suits star Patrick J. Adams, who use their platforms to advocate for War Child’s incredible impact.
A Mission That Resonates
“We were introduced to War Child through our good friends, Thomas Sadoski and Amanda Seyfried,” said Bellisario. “They are War Child Ambassadors and were helping to organize a fundraiser in Los Angeles. It was a comedy night—Sarah Silverman and Friends—to raise vital funds for War Child’s work, and we were happy to attend and support their efforts. That evening, War Child’s founder Samantha Nutt spoke about the organization. What she had to say about the experiences children face when living with war and conflict resonated with us—especially as new parents at the time.”
Inspired by War Child’s mission to protect children from the brutal impact of war by providing them with education, the resources they need to escape poverty, and access to legal protection, Bellisario and Adams have been using their influence to spread awareness for children in war-affected communities all over the world.
The pair have held to that statement, joining War Child time and time again to participate in virtual galas, video appeals, and fundraising campaigns. In 2021, Bellisario participated in a campaign that spoke to the fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban and the plight of women, girls, and families.
“As a woman and a mother, I added my voice to War Child’s Afghanistan campaign to help shed light on a humanitarian crisis that unfortunately isn’t getting the attention it deserves,” the actress shared. “We seem to have abandoned the people of Afghanistan at a time when they need us the most. While the world’s focus was on trying to get people out of Afghanistan, we neglected to remember the 98 per cent of women and girls who don’t have the opportunity to flee.”
War Child has been working in Afghanistan for 20 years and has a long track record of providing critical support to women, girls, and families.
“After the Taliban took over, many international organizations fled the country. War Child stayed,” Bellisario continued. “The staff are local and understand how to navigate this new reality. War Child is currently providing emergency education to at-risk children. They are also working with vulnerable women—providing skills training and cash transfers—so that they can operate small businesses and earn money to support their families. This is especially important as Afghanistan faces an acute food security crisis. Adding my voice to War Child’s campaign was a small way that I could try to bring attention to this very dire humanitarian crisis.”
Women and children are the most vulnerable during times of crisis in war-torn communities, and the COVID-19 pandemic was no exception. During the pandemic, Bellisario and Adams joined a host of actors, musicians and athletes in a video appeal supporting War Child. Along with War Child frontline staff from across the world, the pair made a passionate appeal to donate to War Child’s critical work with war-affected children and their families to support and empower the most vulnerable communities during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Having children can definitely impact how you see the world and your place in it, and it has for us,” Adams said of what drew him to War Child. “As parents, you only want what is best for your children—to keep them safe, happy, and healthy. It’s incredibly hard to fathom the trauma that children who experience war go through.”
The World That’s Possible
War Child supports more than 600,000 women, children, and families every year. They provide numeracy and literacy classes to vulnerable women and catch-up education to children who have missed out on years of schooling. They work with women and youth, offering skills training and small business loans so that they become less aid dependent and lift their families out of poverty, and protect the rights of women and children through access to justice programs.
It’s a long-term holistic approach that seeks to end cycles of violence and poverty and sets up women and children to look forward to brighter futures. What makes it possible is the fact that 99 per cent of War Child’s staff are locals to the communities the organization works with, allowing them to build systems of change and empowerment not just for these communities but within them.
“War Child’s model of building from within, hiring locally, and building local capacity makes so much sense and is the best way to create sustainable change,” Bellisario said. “Local leaders and communities understand their needs, their culture, and the specific challenges they face. They are best positioned to lead the programs with support from War Child. The hope is that one day War Child won’t be needed anymore, and communities will be able to continue this critical work on their own.”
For now, War Child’s work is far from over. In many countries where War Child works, including Yemen, Afghanistan, and Sudan, communities face urgent food crises. War Child’s team of local staff work from within to train farming families, especially those that are female-led, to develop sustainable farming methods. War Child continues to provide more than 2,200 households in South Sudan with agricultural and business training and harvesting techniques to increase their yields and sustain lands and natural resources.
In the face of so much happening around the world, it can often feel like there is no way to make a difference or that the impact of one person is too minor to be valuable.
“We want to ensure that everyone knows that they can help and that every bit counts,” Adams shared. “Your donations and support will have a lasting impact on the lives of those who need it the most. War Child’s programs are innovative, long-lasting, and offer vulnerable children opportunities to look forward to brighter futures.”
“Supporting financially, even in incremental donations, is the best way to help the women and children War Child supports,” Bellisario continued. “If a donation isn’t possible, consider sharing War Child’s work with your network by sharing their posts on social media and inviting people to learn more about this vital work and how they can get involved.”
War Child’s gala, The World That’s Possible, takes place this winter at Toronto’s Royal Ontario Museum on December 5th. The gala, an exclusive fundraising event, seeks to celebrate humanity’s vast potential, stir the imagination, and inspire us to create the world that’s possible. Funds raised will provide conflict-affected children and families with essential programs that give them the chance to escape cycles of violence and poverty and create a brighter future for themselves and their communities.
“Real progress toward peace requires the presence of compelling and consistent alternatives that emphasize education, protection, and economic self-reliance,” said Nutt. “That is why War Child Canada will continue to focus on the long term, investing in opportunities that empower the most vulnerable communities to recover and rebuild—redefining resilience along the way.”
Learn more about War Child and how you can get involved at warchild.ca.