Forest Whitaker speaks for child soldiers

Oscar-winner Forest Whitaker has a new role: helping young victims of war in Central Africa.

It came about through his distinguished career on screen. Whitaker, who recently starred in the CBS show "Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior," reached the pinnacle of success in 2007, winning an Oscar for best actor in "The Last King of Scotland" - the story of Uganda's brutal dictator - Idi Amin.

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While filming the movie, Whitaker was introduced, first hand, to the harsh reality of Uganda's child soldiers, enslaved boys and girls forced to fight that country's bloody civil war - now more than two decades old.

Since then, Whitaker has taken up their cause. It's for this work that he was recently awarded the title of goodwill ambassador for UNESCO, a United Nations organization that promotes international peace.

"The Early Show" caught up with Whitaker earlier this week. He talked about his work with the children, including his upcoming documentary - "A Place of Peace" - that profiles one Ugandan community that's become a safe haven for these children.

"The Early Show" began by asking Whitaker about what it means to become part of the United Nations mission.

"I feel fortunate I get to work with UNESCO on some endeavors that I would like to try to do," he said. "My first will be training young, youth's, male or female, in communication, but peace and reconciliation, conflict negotiation."

Whitaker explained he became involved in the issue while working with an actor on "The Last King of Scotland" who had an orphanage with an organization called Hope North.

Whitaker recalled, "He asked me if I would go up and visit. I knew about the historical issues around the war with the LRA and stuff - Lord's Resistance Army. But this is the first time that I had real deep contact, where I spent time with the children soldiers, raised money for them and helped them to build their dormitories and their schools, and they've been succeeding. I mean, it's more like a village. It's, it's more like a community where these children soldiers who have no families, and in some ways (are) adopted by the community."

Child soldiers, Whitaker explained are often taken around age 8 and sometimes even younger and pressed into service.

He said, "(They) have been forced into war and been trained as soldiers who've been forced many times to kill their parents, or their relatives, or their friends."

Whitaker said, "Some of the stories are really difficult, and a lot of them are suffering obviously nightmares, post traumatic stress, and different things. There was one boy I interviewed and his thing was like he doesn't like to stay still, he doesn't like to be alone, he likes to be able to dance, or be places, because when he sits still, he has to think."

He continued, "The camps are slowly dispersing and over the next few years they should be empty, but the difficult thing is How do you reconcile? How do you reconcile when you have someone to revisit or to go back to their families, or their village where they were forced to or killed their neighbor or their parent. And so how do you reconcile that? How do you reconcile within yourself the things that you've done, you know, how do you find peace? But there has to be a forgiveness of self, as well as a forgiveness on the outside, but definitely of self."

In his nomination as ambassador for UNESCO, "Early Show" co-anchor Chris Wragge added Whitaker was described as a man who "quietly goes about the business of making the world a better place."