War Child was started in February 1993 by British filmmakers Bill Leeson and David Wilson in response to the crisis in the former Yugoslavia. During production of a documentary on the children of Yugoslavia, they were horrified by the plight of the children they encountered, forced to live in a war zone. In the summer of the same year, with funding from the Overseas Development Administration, they took a military surplus field bakery to Medjugorje in western Bosnia Hercegovina and began to bake bread for thousands of Croatian refugees. It was soon moved to East Mostar, where it was joined by a second field bakery. One of their first patrons, the playwright Tom Stoppard wrote, "There is something direct and symbolic about going to where people are hungry and baking bread. It is a biblical idea. Everyone knows what a loaf of bread is and what a hungry child is." Fifteen thousand people a week were fed by the first War Child project.

War Child is founded on the principles that we are not free to ignore pleas from help from innocent victims, and that children are the future of society. Their motto is "Helping the innocent victims of war" and their broad definition of war zone has brought their medical, educational, and social programs for children to present and past areas of conflict, and places where children are threatened by poverty, disease and violence. War Child's four aims are:

  • To alleviate the suffering of children by bringing material aid into war zones.
  • To support those children who have been evacuated into refugee camps.
  • To initiate rehabilitation programmes once children return safely to their homes, including identifying needs for capital reconstruction projects.
  • To be instrumental in healing the psychological damage caused to children by their experiences of war.
War Child operates in three ways: by operating aid programs, by funding other NGOs, and by making governments and the general public aware of the problems facing children all over the world. The last role in particular is one of War Child's strengths. From the beginning, the founders, with their backgrounds in media, gained support for their causes by enlisting celebrity figures. Brian Eno, Luciano Pavarotti, U2, and David Bowie are among the many stars who helped support War Child.

Organizations operating within the War Child network operate in every area of the world. Their efforts in the Balkans continue to this day, and they have expanded their activities to include the construction of safe play areas, education programs for mentally challenged children, and the establishment of the Pavarotti Music Center in Mostar. War Child is also active in Africa and Asia, running food and education programs to benefit children. Most recently, they have been working in Afghanistan, setting up a field bakery as they did in the former Yugoslavia to feed those displaced by recent military conflict there.

War Child is most well known for their use of music and other media in their fundraising and relief activities. In the southern Sudan, War Child is funding a pilot wind-up radio program, while in Belgrade a youth center to provide theatre, music and art classes as well as computer and language lessons is being constructed. Most well known is the Pavarotti Music Center, which holds musical and cultural events, as well as music therapy, to the youth of Mostar in Bosnia. Books featuring celebrity authors like Nick Hornby, Bob Geldof, and Kate Moss, compilation CDs with songs contributed by the Manic Street Preachers, Radiohead, and Massive Attack, and concerts like the Pavarotti & Friends event of June 1996 all support War Child.

War Child's many successes were overshadowed by controversy for a time in 2001 when allegations of financial misconduct arose. Many celebrity supporters, beginning with Luciano Pavarotti, withdrew their support for War Child after it was revealed that founder Bill Leeson was paid kickbacks for awarding construction contracts for the Pavarotti Music Center. Eleven trustees quit over two years, and an inquiry by the British Charity Commission revealed that a disproportionate amount of funds were funnelled toward administrative costs, travel expenses, and the payment of bribes. Fortunately, donations were routed around War Child, and projects continued to be funded through the duration of the investigation. War Child continues to undergo restructuring, and is carrying on with various efforts around the world.

More information can be found at War Child International's website, www.warchild.org.

It was hard to find any news about what War Child has done about their problems since 2001. If you have any info about that, please /msg me. And if anyone knows the name of the documentary that Leeson and Wilson were making, let me know.

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