As we wonder how in the heck we’re already almost a full month into 2017, we thought now would be a good time to take a look at some of the highlights of what our supporters made possible last year.

Indulge us, won’t you?

February 2016 – Okot George Odek Surrenders

After more than two decades as a Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) fighter, one of Joseph Kony’s personal bodyguards, Okot George Odek, defected in a town called Pambayamba in northeastern Central African Republic (CAR).

Okot George Odek (far left) with Kony (far right) and deceased LRA commander Okot Odhiambo (center) at failed Juba peace talks in 2008. Photo credit: Unknown.

Okot George Odek (far left) with Kony (far right) and deceased LRA commander Okot Odhiambo (center) at failed Juba peace talks in 2008. Photo credit: Unknown.

Our team in central Africa was able to immediately record ‘Come Home’ radio messages with Odek encouraging other LRA fighters like him to lay down their weapons and return to their families. We broadcast Odek’s message across areas of CAR and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) where recent LRA activity occurred so that others in the LRA would be encouraged to escape as well.

June 2016 – LRA Releases 12 Women and Children

On the morning of June 8th, a Congolese man (who happens to work for one of Invisible Children’s valued local partner organizations) was traveling by motorcycle between the towns of Niangara and Dungu, DRC when he was ambushed and abducted by a group of LRA fighters.

He was taken to the group’s commander who, after asking a series of questions, released 12 women and children into his care telling him tthat he and the group would listen to the radio for news of the released captives and, if they heard good news, might release more.

Women and children released from LRA captivity in June 2016.

Women and children released from LRA captivity in June 2016.

You helped us raise the funds necessary to immediately broadcast FM radio messages encouraging this LRA group to release more women and children, and to equip nearby communities to safely receive them and support their return home.

 

July 2016 – Central African Communities Collaborate for Safety

Over the summer, our Invisible Children CAR team organized and hosted a weeklong  workshop in Bria, CAR for leaders of Invisible Children supported peace committees in the area. Over 30 local leaders from some of the most remote areas of CAR came to collaborate with one another and become equipped with tools and techniques to make their communities safer.

Bria Workshop Photo

This workshop was the first time that these leaders were able to discuss the challenges they face and to share ideas for how to make their communities safer. Not only that, members of international organizations, including the UN peacekeeping mission in CAR, also participated and were able to hear directly from local leaders about what their communities need and want to support their protection from violence.

 

August 2016 – Early Warning Radio Installed in Community Affected by Poaching

In isolated regions of central Africa, illegal poaching and wildlife trafficking is increasingly putting local communities at risk for violence. Not only does this activity often fund the violence of local armed groups like the LRA, communities in areas where poaching occurs experience more attacks violence against their family when poachers are present. Because they’re so isolated from the rest of the world, communities can’t call for help or alert authorities to illegal poaching when they see it’s results.

Children carry water in the newest Early Warning Network community.

Children carry water in the newest Early Warning Network community.

That’s why, in August, we expanded our Early Warning Radio Network, which connects communities in central Africa to one another and to the outside world, to a community along a common route for Sudanese poachers who enter into Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) Garamba National Park. This is the first time that we’ve installed a radio in a community not directly affected by LRA violence, but which can play a key role in preventing wildlife poaching and the violence against communities that goes along with it. The radio is now helping the community participate in efforts to stop the decimation of the local wildlife trafficking, and making them safer from poachers who often target families with violence as well.

October 2016 – Seven Young LRA Fighters Lay Down Their Weapons and Come Home

Emmanuel's name has been changed and his face blurred to protect his identity.

Emmanuel’s name has been changed and his face blurred to protect his identity.


In October, Emmanuel* and six other boys between the ages of 15 and 19 safely escaped from the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in eastern CAR. Our Invisible Children CAR team was right there to receive Emmanuel and the others, provide them with clothing and other supplies, equip them with basic trauma healing tools, and facilitate their return home in time to celebrate the holidays with their families.

 


2016 was an incredible year for our programs. Over the course of the year our team supported dozens of former LRA captives safely return home. Our Early Warning Network continues to help thousands of central African communities keep each other safe. And we’ve helped equip countless families with the tools and resources they need to heal from trauma and prepare for a hopeful future.

All of this, and so much more, wouldn’t have been possible without the many generous individuals who give monthly to support our programs. From all of us at Invisible Children to all of you, thank you!

We can’t wait to see what we do together in 2017.

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