On campus to celebrate her 20th Reunion, founder and president of the Global Fund for Children, Hepburn Center Fellow Maja Ajmera ’89 presented a screening of War Child, a feature documentary film supported by GCF. C. Karim Chrobog’s directorial debut follows the life of Emmanuel Jal, a former child solider in Sudan’s civil war. Today, Jal is an emerging international hip hop star with a message of peace (“gua”) for his war-torn land. At the age of 7, he was one of 10,000 children conscripted on both sides of the two-decade long conflict in southern Sudan. His life has been fraught with challenges and heartaches, and his story is one of triumph and survival.
The film includes remarkable footage taken of Jal in a refugee camp. Even at the age of 7, his charisma was so evident that National Geographic focused its 1980’s reportage on him as spokesperson for the children.
Ajmera founded GFC a few years after she saw the train platform school in Bhubaneshwar, India, where 40 children were receiving food, clothing, and instruction in reading and writing for only $300 a year. This program inspired her to “put small amounts of money into innovative grassroots groups serving the most vulnerable children around the world.” After obtaining a master’s degree in public policy at Duke, Ajmera started GFC. Ajmera’s first project was supporting Bhubaneswar’s Train Platform School, which she did with profits from Children from Australia to Zimbabwe: A Photographic Journey Around the World. Since 1994, GFC has disbursed nearly $15 million in 69 countries to more than 350 non-governmental organizations over the world, serving more than one million children. GFC has published 25 books and resource guides for young readers, sponsored two other films (Journey of a Red Fridge and Going to School in India), and collaborated with the International Center of Photography (ICP) in sending photographers to developing countries to capture positive images of children.