On Feb. 2, Ishmael Beah sat down between two panelists at the Military History Museum, a big smile stretching from ear to ear. Beah is a survivor. A former child soldier in Sierra Leone, he told the assembled students about how the cultural traditions of his village and his passion for arts gave him the courage and strength to face a life-changing ordeal, and also in the end, hope for his future.
Beah was in Vienna as a guest of Who I Am, an organization here dedicated to educating children about their own cultural heritage and identity, to share with students for the city’s international schools to share his inspirational life story.
“You said yourself that you were lucky,” the panelist to his right opened the discussion. Perhaps luck was part of it, but it also took perseverance and optimism for the 30-year-old Beah to become a New York Times bestselling author after being captured and recruited for the military at the age of 12, and fighting in the civil war in Sierra Leone for almost three years.