In 2014, when he was seven years old, Sam* and several other members of his community were abducted by a group of Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) fighters as they were headed for a field outside their community in a remote corner of northeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
Although many of those abducted with him were released the next day, Sam spent the next three years forced to wash clothes, make up beds, and look for food for his captors. To prevent Sam and their other captives from escaping, the LRA group took them deep into an unfamiliar forest and often tied them together with a rope as they traveled between DRC and the Central African Republic (CAR) to the north. All throughout his three years in captivity, Sam thought of his family and how much he wished he could be with them again.
Then, one day in May 2017, as the group was marching east in DRC, Sam realized that the others hadn’t noticed him fall behind and he was now separated enough from the group that he could run. Bravely, he took that opportunity to escape.
Sam walked north, crossing the border from DRC into CAR, likely crossing the river that separates the two countries alone. Finally, after three days, he encountered a local hunter who brought him to the nearby town of Mboki, CAR, where the local Peace Committee welcomed him and alerted our Invisible Children team in Obo, CAR of Sam’s arrival.
The next day members of the Mboki Peace Committee brought Sam to the Invisible Children supported transit center in Obo where our good friend and community partner, Mama Marie Francine, helped care for him. At the transit center, Sam received some new clothes and other necessities as well as support from community members who have participated in Invisible Children trauma healing workshops.
Today, our teams in CAR and DRC are using our Early Warning Radio Network and other tools to locate and connect with Sam’s family so that he can return home and be with his loved ones once again. Until then, Sam is staying with an Invisible Children supported host family in Obo, CAR who continue to provide him with the care and the trauma healing support he needs as he readjusts to life outside the LRA.
It is because of your support that the programs helping Sam get home are possible; from the Peace Committee who helped him in Mboki, to Mama Marie Francine’s care at the Obo Transit Center, to the Early Warning Network that is helping local his family. But even more important are Sam’s bravery and the bravery of the local community members supporting him.
As we celebrate Sam’s freedom and those who continue to support his return home we also remember the many others who remain in LRA captivity and the families who continue to bravely face the threat of LRA and other armed group violence. We will continue to equip these families with the tools they need to keep one another safe, bring their loved ones home from captivity, and create a hopeful and vibrant future for their communities and for children like Sam.
*Sam’s name has been changed to protect his identity.