Yesterday, I had the opportunity to sit down with two incredible Central African women, Mama Marie-Francine and Clementine. Mama Marie-Francine founded AFASVR (Association of Host Families for Solidarity for the Victims and Escapees), which has been one of Invisible Children’s community partners in the Central African Republic (CAR), to support children affected by LRA violence. Clementine is a dedicated and enthusiastic volunteer who also oversees the organization’s finances.
Over the last several years, AFASVR has maintained a network of families in Obo, CAR, who have opened their homes as temporary sanctuaries for women and children returning from LRA captivity. As host families, they provide a loving, supportive, and caring environment for former LRA captives while their families are being located and contacted in order to arrange their unification. In the meantime, these women and children also receive focused psychosocial care and short-term material support through a community-based “Transit Center” in Obo that Invisible Children supports and maintains in partnership with a collection of community organizations as well as Save the Children.
When I asked Clementine why she volunteers to care for former LRA members, she said it’s because two of her own children were abducted and are still in the bush. She hopes they, too, will be cared for if they are able to escape.
Mama Marie-Francine is currently constructing three new rooms, with support from Invisible Children, so that she can offer shelter and hospitality to even more women and children coming out of the LRA.
Providing LRA returnees with a safe and nurturing environment, particularly in those first days and weeks of freedom from the horrors of LRA captivity, is incredibly important as these women and children begin the healing process and work toward a healthy reintegration into society. Their road to recovery may be a long one, but Mama Marie-Francine and Clementine are dedicated to helping them successfully take that first step.