Game Of Thrones star Jerome Flynn has said he is “changed forever” after meeting child soldiers and other children affected by the civil war in South Sudan.
The actor met former child soldiers and their families, and displaced children who fled their homes because of violence, during a recent fact-finding trip organised by World Vision.
He said their stories were sometimes “almost too painful to bear”.
“Children told me about unimaginable horrors they had seen and experienced,” said Flynn, who is an ambassador for the international charity.
“Some children were kidnapped by armed groups and forced to fight and kill and watch other children get killed for not keeping up.
“Others fled torched homes and villages and sought refuge in camps for displaced people, with little food and no education.
“Many lost mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters and were forced to make choices no child should have to make, just to survive.”
At least 400,000 people have been killed in South Sudan since civil war broke out in the East African country five years ago. More than 19,000 children have been conscripted into various armed groups.
“I met families torn apart because of the conflict and talked to parents who had sons and daughters snatched from them,” said Flynn.
“At times I found their stories of what they had to endure almost too painful to bear.
“Yet I also saw hope in a country ripped apart by war.
“Dedicated World Vision aid workers are helping desperate families stitch their lives together amid the chaos.
“I was blown away by the resilience of the children, humbled by their spirit, and inspired by their determination to find happiness.
“I saw how war costs children their innocence but does not always destroy their childhoods.
“The bravery of the children I met will stay with me forever.”
The organisation said full-blown conflict is likely to flare up again in South Sudan unless a national army of government and rebel forces is formed by May 12.
Flynn said: “South Sudan’s latest peace deal is on a short fuse and the situation is desperate.
“Help is needed urgently to protect children from further violence.
“Sadly, there are thousands of children across the world who need support right now.
“Please give generously to help them.”
The star’s trip formed part of World Vision’s Made For More appeal for funds to protect the world’s most vulnerable children.