A few weeks ago, our team in the Central African Republic (CAR) joined with community members from the southeastern towns of Obo and Mboki to celebrate the graduation of 16 newly trained medical officers — all of whom have been directly impacted by armed group violence. It was an exciting day for the trainees, who have been learning and practicing their skills for the last nine months, as well as for their communities, who now have access to basic medical care.

The new medical officers are all members of locally-run and Invisible Children-supported “Victims Associations” in Obo and Mboki, CAR, which provide trauma healing support and livelihood trainings to individuals who have experienced violence at the hands of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). In partnership with Vie et Espoir and Sous le Douambo, two locally-led organizations, we ensure that Victims Association volunteers are trained in trauma-counseling and are able to connect members to skills training opportunities so that they are better equipped to provide for themselves and their families.

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Members of the Victims Association in Obo, CAR

Last Fall, the leaders of Vie et Espoir and Sous le Douambo asked us to sponsor training workshops on basic medical care. They knew that their communities were in need of greater access to medical support and that it was an opportunity for members of the group to develop new skills and take on an impactful role in their communities. Thanks to all those who support Invisible Children by giving to our programs, we were able to help 16 new medical officers graduate from training in June.

Throughout their nine months of training, these new medical officers learned everything from how to administer vaccinations to delivering babies and basic nursing, and they are now able to help save lives and improve the health of individuals in their communities. They’re also strengthening their community as a whole by providing much-needed services that make the families of Obo and Mboki more resilient and better prepared to tackle challenges together.

By playing an active role in strengthening their own communities, the medical officers themselves, some of whom were previously abducted by LRA forces, are now more equipped to heal from their own traumatic experiences with LRA violence. Their new role as medical officers can help foster a sense of purpose and belonging, and help to reduce the stigma associated with LRA captivity, enabling these individuals to more successfully reintegrate into the community.

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Thanks to the generosity of our supporters around the world we’ve been able to develop strong, trusting relationships with local organizations like Vie et Espoir and Sous le Douambo, who are working hard to make their communities stronger and safer. In the almost ten years that we’ve worked alongside communities in central Africa, we’ve seen time and again that these local organizations and their leaders know the needs of their communities and how to address them best, and this time was no exception.

All of our programs, from our Early Warning Radio Network, to ‘Come Home’ radio messages, to  trainings like this one are all build around the needs and solutions of local communities. We’re incredibly grateful to the local leaders we work with and, of course, to the supporters who make it all possible.