Beah travels to New York with Bah, the other boy chosen to speak to the UN, and Dr. Tamba, the man who has sponsored the trip. Beah is worried New York will be like the war front in Sierra Leone, with people shooting each other, because of all the rap music he is listening to. Instead, it is just terribly cold. Beah doesn’t even have a coat. The city shocks him with its modernity. The next morning, he and Bah meet children from around the world, and learn about each other’s lives.
Beah shows his innocence again, this time to great comedic effect in his sense of the violence of New York and belief in the images of pop culture. That said, before he experienced war he could not imagine it. Now that he has scene it he can imagine it, and has trouble not imagining it. Beah has traveled to New York to participate in a conference about and including children—often those who have faced hardship—across the world. It is an effort to build bonds.
Beah also meets Laura Simms, a woman who works at the United Nations. She promises the children that in her workshops she can teach them how to tell their stories more effectively. She takes particular interest in Beah and Bah, and even gives them each a coat of hers. On the last day of the conference, Beah has the opportunity to address the UN Council about his experiences. A speech had been written for him back in Freetown, but he decides instead to speak from his own heart and mind. He speaks of his experiences, rejects his past as a child soldier, and remarks on the circular nature of revenge, and how as long as orphans continue to be convinced to avenge the deaths of their families, war will go on.
The workshops are designed as a way for the children to learn how to tell their stories, to share those stories with the world. They allow the children to become witnesses and advocates, to both force the world to face the ordeals it makes children endure and to attempt to change those conditions. Through his close relationship to Laura Simms’s Beah becomes able to clearly face his past, to process it for himself and others. Beah’s understanding of his own brainwashing shows how much he has distanced himself from it.
Laura Simms accompanies Beah, Bah, and Dr. Tamba back to the airport. The mood in the car is somber, as Beah and Bah are sad to leave behind the friends they have made. Laura Simms gives Beah her address and phone number, in order to stay in touch, before he boards the plan heading back to Sierra Leone. In a few days Beah will turn sixteen.
The detail that Beah is still fifteen—the age at which most Americans, for instance, are sophomores in high school—when he leaves the conference drives home just how young he was when he was a soldier.