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World Children’s Day: A Better Future for Every Child

Tanenbaum Peacemaker in Action, James Lual Atak

On this World’s Children Day, Tanenbaum is highlighting the work of our Peacemakers in Action whose work and mission embody this year’s 2021 World Children’s Day theme: ‘A Better Future for Every Child’. 

Along the border of Darfur, James Lual Atak and his staff at New Life Ministry assure the education, safety, and health of more than 600 orphaned children. James is no stranger to their situation: at 9 years old, James fled for his life amidst the civil war that ravaged Sudan, and was shortly after conscripted as a child soldier, a practice that still runs rampant today

Eventually freed by his commanding general, James and thousands of other Lost Boys fled, making the perilous, unfathomable journey to Kenya and Ethiopia. In Nairobi, James received an education, learned about Christianity, and was granted an American visa. However, James knew that thousands of children were still suffering with virtually no assistance. He turned down the chance at another life abroad, and returned to Sudan with no funding, no resources, and a single textbook. 

By 2005, James had gathered more than 150 orphans at his New Life Ministry (NLM) and was teaching them to read and write out of that very same book. Last year, NLM celebrated its 15-year anniversary.  With more than 600 children, a ministry for widows and former sex slaves, and the region’s only high school, James has created a better future for the Darfur Muslim and South Sudanese Christian orphans that NLM takes in.

James and New Life Ministry are partnered with Lift up the Vulnerable to reproduce similar locally-led initiatives. Since their partnership began in 2005, James has led the creation of additional orphanages, schools, and clinics in Sudan and South Sudan. Combined, more than 1,200 orphans are taken care of every day. 

Yet the work is never done. The political situation of Sudan and South Sudan, along with the COVID-19 pandemic, have only served to make things worse for James, who laments:

Right now [in South Sudan], there is a lot of human trafficking, especially of young boys and girls…when I talk to the authorities, they do not have the resources. Our hands are tied, so we can only stand and watch, it’s a very difficult and bad situation. Innocent children are being abused and become victims, you feel heartbroken and vulnerable when you cannot rescue the people.

In our orphanage, we do not have the space to accommodate all the children who show up. We have to turn some away because there’s no space, and the food we have is for the children in the dormitories only. It is very difficult for us. For me, it’s not easy. As a leader, seeing things work well then suddenly being stuck…I was stressed from doing things we don’t have the resources for. Thanks to God, I’m still strong, and we will move on with whatever resources we have.

To support Tanenbaum in identifying and supporting Peacemakers in Action like James who are creating new futures for today’s children, we invite you to meet the Peacemakers, hear from them directly on our new Peacemakers in Action podcast, and consider making a donation to Tanenbaum’s Peacebuilding program.

To support James Lual Atak and New Life Ministry, please visit Lift Up the Vulnerable.

To learn more about World’s Children Day, visit the UN World Children’s Day page, meet this year’s UNICEF Youth Advocates, and consult the 2021 State of the World’s Children report.