In January, after eight years in captivity, a brave young mother named Hannah* escaped the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) with her children. The hope and courage she displayed and which enabled her escape are truly incredible; but they’re not unique among mothers in central Africa.
Every mother wants safety and freedom for her children. You can help make that a reality for moms like Hannah across central Africa by supporting our programs that are helping communities prevent armed group violence and promote peace.
At eleven years old, during her second year of primary school, Hannah* and her brother, Michael,* were abducted by a group of LRA fighters from their home in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Although Michael managed to escape just a few days later, Hannah would ultimately spend the next eight years of her life in LRA captivity — and eventually become a mother in the bush.
As Hannah’s LRA group moved through central Africa, attacking communities and abducting children, Hannah spent her days gathering food, cooking, and washing clothes for the male fighters in the group. Like other young girls in LRA captivity, Hannah was given to an LRA commander who repeatedly raped her. She gave birth to two children while in captivity.
During the eight years of her captivity, Hannah never gave up her hope that she and her children would one day find freedom. She made three brave attempts at escape but, every time, she was caught by her captors and severely beaten. Then one day in June of 2016, the commander of her LRA group in northeastern DRC decided to release twelve women and children, handing them over to a Congolese civilian. Hannah was not one of the twelve, but she took a chance and gave one of her children to a woman in the group that was being released in order to give her child a chance at freedom — all while recognizing that they might never see each other again.
Our Invisible Children staff and partners in DRC helped welcome Hannah’s child and the other women and children home and immediately activated a series of “Come Home” radio messages targeting Hannah’s LRA group, encouraging the group’s leaders to defect and release of more women and children. We also continued outreach and training efforts with local communities in the area to ensure that they would be prepared to safely assist and support LRA returnees.
One day in late January, when she was pregnant with her third child, Hannah finally escaped from the LRA group, together with her five-year-old son and her son’s father. The trio came across a group of local hunters in DRC who helped them get to safety. Today, Hannah and all of her children are free because she never gave up hope for a safer, brighter future.
As we celebrate Hannah’s freedom, we also remember that dozens of mothers just like her remain in LRA captivity and that thousands more across central Africa live in constant fear of violent armed groups that target their families. Just as Hannah never gave up, neither do these brave mothers — and neither will we.
For more than seven years, we’ve been working with community leaders in some of the most remote, insecure corners of DRC and the Central African Republic (CAR) to develop and expand programs that are bringing LRA captives home, helping families heal from trauma, and ensuring that thousands of mothers and their families are able to prevent violence and promote peace.
Together with community partners, we’ve broadcast more than 4,000 hours of “Come Home” radio messages, encouraging hundreds of LRA captives, like Hannah and her children, to escape; we’ve established 41 Peace Committees across central Africa, which unite families and provide them with tools to heal from trauma, prevent violence, and support LRA returnees; and we’ve incorporated 48 communities in CAR and DRC into our Early Warning HF Radio Network, giving them access to life-saving information to help them protect themselves and each other. In recent years, we have even expanded the Early Warning Network to allow communities to help stop illegal wildlife trafficking, which often funds violent armed groups in the region, so that their children and their environment both have a chance at a safe and thriving future.
This Mother’s Day, send a mom in your life a gift that will bring life-saving programs to more mothers and families facing violence in central Africa. Make a donation in her honor, and we will send your mother a special eCard, letting her know how much she means to you and the impact that your gift in her honor will make.
Every mom wants safety and freedom for her children. Together, we can ensure that moms like Hannah are equipped to give their children just that.
*Hannah and Michael’s names have been changed to protect their identities