For some, there is a precise moment when trust is shattered. It is the irrevocable moment that the world stops being a place of comfort, possibility and carefree joy. “War Child-Chapter One”, a short film being screened to benefit a unique program run by Edmonton Mennonite Centre for Newcomers, captures the precise moment Emmanuel Jal stopped being an innocent child. He was six years old. 

I  had the opportunity to have a sneak preview of the film last week. It tells the story of and is narrated by Emmanuel Jal, a former child soldier from South Sudan who is now an international rap artist, film star and runs a charity to help children in Africa. Every detail of the film was hand-crafted by local artists, with drawings sent to Emmanuel for feedback and approval. The film bursts with colour and immerses the viewer in the perspective of 6-year old Emmanuel and the precise moment that his world changed forever. When the film ended, I was overcome by the question: “And THEN what happened??!” And that is exactly the response local film-makers Kate Holowach and Norm Fassbender wanted. The plan is for Emmanuel to take the film on tour to schools around the world, as a tool to start the conversation about the impacts of war on children and the role youth can play in creating world peace.  But before it is launched on its international journey, the filmmakers want the film to do some good right here in Edmonton.

On April 12, “War Child” will be premiered to benefit the Centre for Survivors of Torture and Trauma at the Edmonton Mennonite Centre for Newcomers (EMCN). Every year, Edmonton welcomes immigrants and refugees from around the world. Some of these newcomers have fled war, endured traumatic losses and witnessed unspeakable horrors. These families need support and expert counselling to recover and begin building a productive life here in Canada. EMCN is one of United Way’s funded partners, due to the significant role they play in helping newcomer families build happier, healthier and more prosperous lives by addressing their physical, financial, educational and psychological needs. The counselling provided at the Centre for Survivors of Torture and Trauma at EMCN is very specialized and rare- there are only a handful of certified trauma treatment centers like it in Canada and the need outstrips their resources—hence, the fundraiser. 

The fundraiser takes place from 5-7 PM on Saturday, April 12, at Lendrum Mennonite Brethren Church (11210-59 Avenue). In addition to the screening of the short film “War Child- Chapter One”, the event features a keynote presentation by Dr. Ali Adbi from the University of Alberta, testimonial by a client who was helped by the Centre, musical entertainment, food and door prizes. Tickets are $20 each. All proceeds go to the Centre for Survivors of Torture and Trauma. To reserve your tickets, please contact Amy Stevens, Coordinator of Fund Development at EMCN at 780-423-9506 or astevens@emcn.ab.ca. For more information, please visit: www.emcn.ab.ca .