16/03/2017 11:20 GMT | Updated 17/03/2018 05:12 GMT

As The World's Attention Turns To The Plight Of Refugees And Children, We Urge Everyone To Be Part Of The Solution

We were both born during long and protracted wars - in Uganda, the Lord's Resistance Army fought for almost 30 years to overthrow the Government, whilst Sudan has experienced civil war over the independence of its southern regions for over 60 years.  Our childhoods were shaped by violence and conflict. We witnessed it, we were victims of it and, yes, we saw children like us perpetrate it. The years that should have been spent playing, learning and building the foundations for a bright and prosperous future were, instead, spent in fear.

Of course growing up in conflict was incredibly hard. We witnessed a level of brutality that we hope no other children have to experience - killings, beatings, torture. We saw communities decimated and lives torn apart.

So how do you build a future from such a violent past?

In our experience, education empowered us to build a better life. As young adults, we both had the opportunity to learn and grow, which we missed out on as children. We attended schools that aim to rehabilitate children affected by conflict. We gained skills and knowledge that, together, give us hope of a better future for our families and our countries after years of war.

In recent years, we have started to work with Forest Whitaker's foundation, the Whitaker Peace and Development Institute, which has supported us to meet others who had similar experiences of growing up in war. It has also helped us acquire new skills - such as mediation, peace-building and conflict resolution training, which we now use to bring hope to other young people like us. 

In the last year, WPDI's partnership with Education Above All (EAA) Foundation, which provides quality education to the poorest and most marginalised children, has allowed us to take our learning even further. In October 2016, we spent four days at a workshop in Education City in Doha, Qatar, where we learned that we not only deserve an education and a peaceful future, but that it is our basic human right. Education Above All's programme, Protect Education in Insecurity and Conflict, taught us about international law and the Safe Schools Declaration, which commits countries to protecting education in conflict zones.

As a result of this, we are now working towards changing our own communities through education, teaching others to reject violence and fight for peace in the same way that we have.

We strive to spread peace around us; but we sometimes feel that the world is not working for peace. In South Sudan, old tensions have re-awoken and spates of violence are becoming more common.

Last year, more refugees arrived in Uganda alone than arrived into every country in Europe combined. Many of them are children who have gone through some of the same experiences we both have.

With the support of organisations like EAA and WPDI, we are doing our best to reach out to these children to help them understand their rights, learn new skills and, importantly, give them hope that there is a better path open to them.

But we can't do this alone. So together, as young people from Uganda and South Sudan - different countries affected by different conflicts - we are calling on the international community not to turn away from children with stories of violence and conflict. As the world's attention once again turns to the plight of refugees and children affected by war, we are urging everyone to be a part of a solution that helps us and others like us to lead flourishing lives in East Africa.

Don't let our past dictate our tomorrow. Together we can build a brighter future - for us as individuals, for the thousands more like us, for our communities and our homelands.