As a child growing up in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Michel Chikwanine endured unspeakable horrors of war. He witnessed the torture of his father — a human rights lawyer who was eventually murdered due to his political beliefs — and the rape of his mother. He was forced to become a child soldier at age five and a refugee at age 11.
Yet, Chikwanine retains hope for the future and a belief in positive change. He’s an activist, motivational speaker and leadership facilitator with organizations ranging from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to the Romeo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative.
His inspiring journey and his tireless advocacy for peace and human rights were recently recognized with a Global Impact Award presented by the University of Toronto African Alumni Association during its annual African Scholars Awards ceremony. For Chikwanine, who earned a bachelor of arts specialist degree as a member Woodsworth College in African studies from U of T and co-authored a graphic novel, Child Soldier: When Boys and Girls Are Used in War, the award served as motivation to continue to work towards the betterment of society.
My father always reminded me that great men and great women have never been praised for their money or their success, but rather for their heart and what they do for others.
“As my father always said before he died — he always reminded me that great men and great women throughout history have never been praised for their money or their success, but rather for their heart and what they do for others,” Chikwanine said during the virtual event last last week.
“So I ask all of us — alumni and every part of this community — to be great, with great hearts to make this incredible life and incredible continent that we have be the best that it can be.”