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Claire's tears for child soldiers 
By Derek Robins

Ex-Brookie star Claire Sweeney was in tears when she met abused child soldiers in Sierra Leone, while making a Comic Relief documentary for BBC1.



Claire, 30, visited a project where youngsters who fought in the African country's bloody civil war are being rehabilitated.

She said: "The counselling session for the kids knocked me for six. My mum said it would upset me and she was right. At the end the girls were in tears and I was in tears."

Meeting a girl who was ordered to shoot her parents by soldiers during Sierra Leone's civil war was the worst part of Claire Sweeney's visit to Africa.

Claire met Finda, now 20, who was told to kill her parents after they were kidnapped by rebels.

Claire, who was making BBC1's Comic Relief Hot Christmas Pants, said: "I am still trying to relate to it. If I was given a gun and told to shoot my mum and dad - you can not even contemplate it.

"Soldiers told her they would kill her if she didn't kill her mum and dad.

"Her mum escaped but her dad wasn't so lucky. Finda was devastated and she was given cocaine and her head was completely messed up."

In spite of the awful stories she heard in Sierra Leone, Claire Sweeney says there is hope for the child soldiers of that war-torn African country.

Many of the youngsters in BBC1's Comic Relief documentary have been physically and sexually abused.

The charity has donated 72k to help 200 ex-child soldiers return to civilian life. She said: "The kids have got a future now which is great. The project is so forward thinking and positive." 

09/12/01