Editor's Note: Emmanuel Jal is a former child soldier in Sudan who has defied the odds to become a musician. His "We Want Peace" campaign raises awareness of justice, equality and conflict prevention. Here he tells his story and why he joined CNN's Freedom Project.
By Emmanuel Jal, Special to CNN
I was born in the most difficult time, when my country was going to war. The first time I heard a bomb I thought the world was ending. The ground was shaking, people were screaming at gunshots, explosions flashing up in different colors.
My mother would pray with us and put her arms around us telling us it was going to be OK, that God was with us. When it was all over, our neighbors and the whole town went quiet and all you could hear were people crying and mourning.
I grew up in the south of Sudan when rebels were fighting for independence from the rest of Sudan.
The memories of the past are still strong in my mind. When I was five I did not understand what rape was but I saw my aunt being raped in front of me, locked in a room by an Arab soldier and all I could see was her crying. I did not understand what was going on.
It was not long before government soldiers destroyed my village. We kept running from one place to another and it was during one of these attacks that I lost my mother.
When I turned seven my father sent me to school in Ethiopia. Along with hundreds of children I walked. There was not enough to eat or drink. People starved and the wild animals ate others. Some kids were abducted by people who had lost their children in the war.
At eight I was recruited as a child soldier. I was susceptible because I wanted to take revenge for my family. The training wasn't easy, but I promised myself I would find the people who destroyed my home, get an AK-47 and kill as many Muslims and Arabs as possible.
I didn't understand the war then. I was a kid and I didn't know the difference. Now I am educated and I have discovered that it wasn't the "Muslims" or "Arabs" that destroyed my home - it was the economic situation.
Religion was used as a tool by the government to unite people of the same faith and use it as a weapon for them to attack others.
I was lucky; a British Aid Worker, Emma McCune, finally rescued me. I met her when I was 11 and fleeing the Sudan People's Liberation Army. It was during one of my lowest times. I had just survived a journey where I was tempted to eat my friend because we ran out of food and we were depending on vultures, snails, rats and anything else we could find to eat.
My story is long. I lost my childhood and I can't fix history, but I travel the world telling my story to raise awareness and the emotional intelligence of everyone I meet.
When people know something bad is happening they want to do something to stop it. I go to schools and reach out to young people by putting my trust in them that they can correct the mistakes of the past.
The CNN Freedom Project has raised my hopes because it will open the eyes of millions and create a positive energy. People will want to be a part of this campaign to end modern slavery.
It is going to give hope to the oppressed and shine a light to expose the evil. Slavery still exists in my country.
A referendum took place on January 9 where the people of Southern Sudan were given the option to vote for a split from the north and become their own nation. Things have gone relatively smoothly for now and people have voted for separation.
I have set up a charity called GUA Africa to build a school in Southern Sudan in honor of Emma McCune, the British Aid worker who rescued me.
I launched a campaign called Lose to Win to do this and ate just one meal a day for 662 days to raise enough money to complete our first phase. The idea of Lose to Win is for someone to give something up to make a positive change to the people around them, and then go on to make their communities and the world at large a better place.
For example, people gave up things like cigarettes or beer and calculated the amount they would have spent and donated it online to help build the school. In December, I will start Lose to Win again to try to raise money for three charities dedicated to improving education in Africa: Gua Africa, Africa Yoga Project and My Start.
This time I will become a modern day nomad and my target is to raise $1.4 million. To find out more visit emmanueljal.com.
The CNN Freedom Project is a noble cause, which I'm honored to be a part of. By raising awareness about modern-day slavery throughout this year, we will reach the core of this monster and bring it to justice.
One voice echoing can make a difference but two or more people coming together can change the world.