Spruce Grove Composite
High School (10–12)


Former Child Soldier Speaks to SGCHS Students

Michel Chikwanine has overcome unimaginable pain and struggles.

Born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Michel grew up amid the terror of the Great War of Africa. He witnessed the torture of his father, the rape of his mother, and endured torture of his own. Much of his childhood was ravaged by the death and decay of a war that claimed the lives of 5.8 million people, his father included, and forced him to be a child soldier.

Michel now inspires people to believe in their ability to make a difference and leaves audiences with a new perspective on life, a sense of hope through social responsibility, and a desire for change. 

Below is a letter written by Miss Burritt’s Social Studies class that reflects their thoughts and appreciation to Michel:

We are writing to you from our Grade 10 Social Studies class. This year we have been learning about globalization and its impact on societies around the world. We loved that your speech connected directly to what we were learning in class. We studied the legacies of imperialism and your story about the Congo brought that to life. We are currently learning about the World Bank and the IMF, and their influence on developing countries.

We are so glad that you have made it this far. You experienced hard times that last in your memory to this day. You have made us realize that we take the little things in life for granted. For us in Canada, everyone has the right to speak their mind. This is written into legislation. However, we learned that in the Congo your father was punished for the honourable act of speaking the truth. We also take advantage of the technology that we use every day. We do not think of the violence that accompanies our electronic devices; we simply use and abuse.

Many of us were most impacted by your description of what your family, especially your mother and sisters, endured. We were greatly affected by your powerful words because although we have all experienced pain, loss, and sadness, it will never compare to the grief that you have endured. Many of the students in our class play video games and they now understand that it takes a lot more to pull a trigger than push a button. We have become desensitized to violence through western media and what those video games teach us; however, we now know that these events are traumatizing.

Even something as basic as children playing a sport is infinitely more difficult in your home country. We could probably walk down a street and find a soccer ball or ask for money from our parents to buy one, whereas you and your friends had to work for it and make one by hand that would only last for a few games. When we walk home from school today, we will notice just how safe we are. There are no bullets or bombs or mines or army trucks in our peaceful neighbourhoods.

We thank you for allowing us to have such a great learning experience. We wish we could open people’s minds and hearts the way you did in your presentation. Your outlook is better than ours, and yet you have had to suffer through so much. Our perspective on Africa has vastly changed. We now know that our society directly affects the wars and everyday lives of people in Africa. Our preconceived notions about Africa focused on the negative, but you helped us understand the positive.

With deepest regard and respect, 
Miss Burritt’s Social Studies 10 Class 
Spruce Grove Composite High School


For more information about Michel Chikwanine, visit http://www.speakers.ca/speakers/michel-chikwanine.