In 17 years as a goodwill ambassador for UNICEF, Tetsuko Kuroyanagi has seen the worst of what could happen to children around the world.

Tetsuko Kuroyanagi displays the English version of her book “Totto-chan’s Children” Thursday at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan in Tokyo.

On a recent trip to Liberia, the veteran actress and TV celebrity met a 10-year-old soldier carrying a gun who had been brainwashed into thinking it was fun to kill people. At another time she was left speechless after meeting a 12-year-old girl in Haiti who worked as a prostitute to feed her starving family.

“Children are going through such plights though they have nothing to be blamed for,” Kuroyanagi told the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan on Thursday. “It is very important that adults make sure not to create political confusion. If politics are not going well, children are the ones who suffer.”

Kuroyanagi was at the FCCJ as a guest speaker to share her experience of helping children suffering from civil wars, diseases and starvation.

She was also there to promote the recently published English translation of her book “Totto-chan’s Children: A Goodwill Journey to the Children of the World.”

The book gives a vivid account of her visits to countries ranging from Tanzania, Niger and Cambodia to Rwanda. “Totto” is her nickname, taken from the way she mistakenly heard her name being called when she was a child.

She said she wrote the book to raise awareness of issues afflicting children in the world. Part of the royalties will be used for UNICEF causes.

Through her longtime activities, she has raised some 3.074 billion yen in donations from 214,884 individuals.

In an interview with The Japan Times after the speech, she expressed hope that the book will also help enlighten people in Japan, where juvenile crime is becoming a social problem.

“It is important that young people go abroad and see many things, and not just go sightseeing,” she said. “If you witness (the problems in the world), your outlook on life will change. You will understand how fortunate and well-off you are, despite all the frustrations and hatred you might harbor in your mind. You will understand that you are so safe from the risk of air raids and land mines.”

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