“A rebel soldier came up with a blind fold, he blindfolded me and handed me a gun, an AK-47, at five years old I couldn’t lift the gun, so I dropped it. The rebel soldier put my finger on the trigger and he started yelling, SHOOT! SHOOT! So I pulled the trigger. When I looked at the ground my best friend, Kevin, was lying there in a pool of his own blood. At five years old I was forced to kill my best friend.”
Michel Chikwanine, a former child soldier, born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, spoke passionately of his struggles in Africa to Missouri Western students at the Kemper Recital Hall Thursday, Feb. 4. His message was of hope, social responsibility and change.
He endured many harsh, unimaginable sufferings growing up in a war torn land during the Great War of Africa, including witnessing his mother and sister’s violent rapes and the torture of his father. Even through all of that he overcame his struggles and is now a motivational speaker. At only 22 years old he has spoken to over 100,000 people and was on the Oprah’s O Ambassadors Roots of Action speaking tour.
Chikwanine’s father was tortured and killed for his strong political beliefs, but before his death he gave Chikwanine words of wisdom that will stay with him forever and that inspired him to be a motivational speaker.
“Always remember that great men and great women are not described by their money or their success, but by their heart and what they do for other people,” Chikwanine said. “I made a promise to my father right before he died that I would continue his legacy that I would continue to tell his story.”
Junior Kendra Petties, who attended the event, said she was truly inspired by Chikwanine’s story.
“The stories he told made me want to help out,” Petties said. “It’s real positive to have someone come and tell us how we can become involved and help in other countries.”
WAC Vice president Keisha Caldwell said the first time she heard Chikwanine speak it brought tears to her eyes. She said being raised by a single mom she could relate to many of the things he talked about.
“His story makes you appreciate the things you do have instead of things you don’t have,” Caldwell said.
After being forced to live in a refugee camp, Chikwanine, his mother and sister were finally able to leave the country and go to Canada. His two older sisters are still in hiding and trying to escape the country.
Chikwanine finished his story urging students to take action to make a difference. He said the three ways to take action are learn more, volunteer on a trip and help make a difference.