“The suffering of children is hidden, silent and insidious. I am a little awed that anyone should have noticed my work because the children are the ones who deserve recognition and respect.”
For 24 years, Marie de la Soudiere has played a leading role in the development and implementation of programs to protect and promote the recovery and psycho-social reintegration of children affected by armed conflict, children separated from their families, and former child soldiers. Throughout her work, she has bravely put her own safety at risk by entering countries in the middle of armed conflicts and shaky cease-fires to provide children an opportunity for healing as well as reuniting with families.
After studying social work in New York, La Soudiere began her work with refugee children in Thailand during the Cambodian emergency in 1980. She established emergency care for separated Cambodian children and developed and managed a program to trace families and reunite the children with them. La Soudiere then went on to Sudan serving as an Emergency Operations Officer for UNICEF, supervising nutritional feeding centers and setting up a program to protect and care for street children in the capital.
La Soudiere has served children in many countries including the Philippines, Hong Kong, Pakistan, Bosnia, Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo), Rwanda, Burundi and Sierra Leone. Of the many positions she has held, some of the most notable are founder and president of THEA (Thread of Hope for Economic Advancement), an economic and social development organization which prevents the increase of street-children by providing skills training and employment to some of the most destitute families in Manila; UN High Commissioner for Refugees Focal Point for Women and Children in former Yugoslavia; and director of the program for Children Affected by Armed Conflict for the International Rescue Committee. She also developed Unimix, a high-protein food that UNICEF uses when providing relief to countries.
Overall, La Soudiere has directly impacted nearly 1 million children by providing care, family tracing, reunification and community reintegration services in war-torn countries all over the world.