Escaping Gang Life in Yemen: Ahmed's Story

Save the Children helps boys escape the life of gang violence.

Ahmed, a former gang member, tells his inspiring story at a youth development workshop.

Ahmed spent three years of his life as a gang member in Yemen’s capital, Sana’a. Lack of support from his family was among the many reasons he left home and joined the gang.

“The gang pushed me to do wrong things, in order for me to feel that I belonged,” said Ahmed. “I was the one who make the plans for the gang. We did the jobs, and whenever we got money, we divided it among us.”

One day, Ahmed was invited to participate in a Save the Children program. Youth programs like the one Ahmed participates in focus on the important role of young men and women in developing countries. Save the Children sees tremendous opportunity in positively engaging youth in defining their futures, for their own benefit as well as their communities.

Ahmed took an 11-day training for livelihood opportunities and life skills. In the training, there was a session in which participants shared stories of their lives and explained the difficulties they faced.

Ahmed was moved as he listened a young girl tell her story. Her father disappeared, leaving her, three other sisters, and their mother alone without income or support.

He identified with this strong girl who worked hard to help her family survive, rather than abandon them. The girl’s story inspired him, making Ahmed re-think his life as a violent gang member.

“I believe I can be like her and change my life, being constructive and supportive and a good citizen,” said Ahmed.

Now 22 years old, Ahmed has turned his life around. It is his turn to spark the desire for change in other young people. He was invited to share his story at a three-day workshop in front of 100 young men and women from different parts of Yemen.

Despite the difficulty of opening up about his past – especially in front of such a large group - Ahmed is convinced that he is doing the right thing. He hopes that through telling his story that other youth might learn from his experience and avoid the mistakes he made when he was younger.

“I wondered where to begin. I wanted to make sure that they understood that I changed my life for the better,” said Ahmed. “I also hoped they would see that I had changed from my days as a gang member. I still feel bad about being involved in activities that were not good for my community.”

“I believe I can change my life, being constructive and supportive and a good citizen,” said Ahmed with great conviction.

For Ahmed, and youth like him around the world, it takes so little to make such a big difference.

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