HELPING The Children of WAR

When military activities fill the pages of our newspapers and television screens, the stark realization hits home of the devastation war can have on a civilian population. Contrasting the lives of such unfortunate people with our own, we cannot help but be grateful that in Canada we live in relative security and comfort.

But when the guns stop firing, the attention of the media moves on. And for most of us, our attention moves on with it. In the absence of media coverage, it’s hard to stay focused on the plight of people thousands of kilometres away, and often harder still to believe there’s a way for us to make a meaningful difference. We all wish we could do something, but the problem is so vast, so distant, and so unrelated to our own experience that solutions are difficult to visualize.

IT World Canada, CIO Canada’s publisher, recently became aware of the efforts of a remarkable organization that is focused on making a difference in the lives of children affected by war. War Child Canada (WCC) is part of the charitable organization War Child; and what grabbed our attention is a new initiative they’ve undertaken called No War Zone.

Most humanitarian projects are aimed at helping people affected by catastrophe to survive until tomorrow. No War Zone is an effort to influence how tomorrow will look for these children by giving them the tools and the know-how to shape it for themselves.

No War Zone becomes effective in the aftermath of war, when the basic survival needs of children have been addressed through other humanitarian efforts, and the work of building can begin – building infrastructure, building hope and confidence in the future, and building self-sufficiency.

It strikes a chord with us because it takes the view that technology – the knowledge of, and the application of information technology and the Internet – can be the means to that end. In fact, we believe that information technology is possibly the single biggest factor in the future of changing the balance of world health and economic issues.

No War Zone appeals to us because it brings the possibility of a solution to this problem within the realm of our experience. And we’re taking the unusual step of writing about it in the pages of CIO Canada in the belief that it may strike a similar chord with some of you.

Transforming Power of I.T.

Readers of CIO Canada know better than anyone how information technology can bring about transformational change to our businesses. Through War Child Canada, and its No War Zone initiative, that same transforming capability is now being focused on the economic and social problems faced by children in war-affected regions of the world.

No War Zone’s aim is to harness the power of IT to create a global community, bringing together children in war-affected regions of the world and those who, in countries like Canada, enjoy the benefits of peace, security and economic well being. The No War Zone concept is a net-based ‘common space’ with a shared Web site, online resource centre, discussion boards, portfolios, artwork, poetry, articles on issues of global concern and workspaces where youth collaborate on projects and campaigns. (See sidebar below)

The vision is a powerful and far-reaching one. It sees a future where many children in regions recovering from war or other catastrophes have ready access to computers and to the Internet. They connect with peers in Canada and elsewhere and even share in school lessons through on-line learning tools and Internet-based conferencing. And their teachers are trained in Computer/ICT skills to help strengthen the educational capacity in this new form of distant learning, which is still a novelty in many regions.

Through these tools, participants can improve their facility in international languages, and develop skills that equip them for knowledge jobs, not just menial work; jobs that provide them with real income; skills that contribute to the economic growth of their homeland and improve the likelihood of a sustainable peace. And the person-to-person interaction with peers will allow them to form their own opinions about our culture and our values.

So Where Do We Fit In?

War Child Canada will work with local partners like IT World Canada to provide youth from war-affected countries with the technology they need to participate in this exciting initiative.

We know, of course, that many of you, as individuals and as corporations, support a variety of charitable efforts that have meaning for you. We are putting IT World Canada’s resources behind this project because of its focus on leveraging technology. In addition to the obvious need for finance and equipment, this is a project that requires the intellectual support of creative, knowledgeable and influential people in the field of IT. And it’s hard to imagine a community of people that qualifies in those categories more than CIO Canada’s readers.

So over the coming months, representatives from IT World Canada will be reaching out to our reader and vendor communities, looking for ideas and participation. And from time to time we’ll report on projects and progress.

Meanwhile, if you have questions, would like more information, or have ideas to contribute, please e-mail me:

To learn more about No War Zone, please visit the website.

To learn more about War Child Canada, please visit War Child Canada’s website,, or call 1-866-WARCHILD.

John Pickett is vice president and editor-in-chief of IT World Canada.

Kids Meeting Kids Through ‘No War Zone’

To get a glimpse of No War Zone at work, here are some excerpts of real on-line conversations appearing on the No War Zone Web site.

In Don Mills, Ontario, Calvin finishes his homework and logs in to a discussion board. There are several that he regularly visits, but this one is new. Earlier in the week, Calvin and his classmates had connected, via the Internet and the No War Zone Web site, with a school in Sierra Leone and saw a presentation by students there about their way of life – what it was like to live in the midst of the war that devastated their country, how they are coping with peace, and their aspirations for the future.

Calvin reads a post from Torm in Sierra Leone, explaining what connectivity means to him: “The Internet helps people to communicate with others around the world as i am doing now. You can even not knowing the person ever in your life. By having a friend on the Internet i have seen that it can change my life in many ways, it can bring education, knowing different culture, and making friends etc.”

At Torm’s school in Sierra Leone, they can’t always use the computer or connect to the Internet because they have regular power blackouts. Another discussion thread shows how a group of students in Peterborough, Ontario, are responding: “Today, at school, we raised $100 by having a bake sale. This money will go towards purchasing a generator for the computer lab in Sierra Leone. We plan on raising more money through watch sales this week.”

From another Don Mills student: “Hi, we’re raising money today for Mohamed who lost his leg during war times in Sierra Leone. Him and his group put together and performed a wonderful presentation for our school yesterday. It was very powerful and enlightening. It really reached out to the students, we hope that our efforts are helpful.”

These kids seem to have a good understanding of what reaching out can really accomplish. By supporting No War Zone, you can help that reach extend a little further.

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