Every child deserves safety, freedom, and to be with the families who love them. Unfortunately, that is not the reality for many children who are held captive by Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).
But we are changing that. Together with brave local heroes and partners, we are helping make central African children safer from violence and LRA abduction and literally bringing children home from LRA captivity.
For more than a decade, we’ve been dismantling the LRA from within by broadcasting ‘Come Home’ radio messages that have helped encourage hundreds of LRA fighters and captives to escape. But once they escape, former LRA captives often find themselves alone, still far from home, and without the resources to get back to their families. So we have stepped in to ensure that every LRA captive is not only free, but also reunited with the ones they love.
Over the summer, Sam, Louis, and Christopher, each bravely escaped LRA captivity. Once they were able to escape, they each found themselves alone in the Central African Republic (CAR) across the border from their home country of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Christopher, the oldest of the three at 16, had been in captivity for two months when he took an opportunity to slip away from the LRA group holding him. After his escape, he spent five weeks alone in the jungle before he came across a group of local hunters who helped him get to an Invisible Children-supported transit center in Obo, CAR.
Louis, 15, spent the longest time in captivity of the three. For four years, he was forced to carry heavy loads and guard his captors before he was able to escape during a fight. He traveled alone for two months before arriving at a small town in CAR where community members helped him get to Obo.
Sam, the youngest at only ten years old, escaped the LRA in May after three years in captivity. Lost and alone, he crossed the river that runs along the border between the DRC and CAR before members of a local Peace Committee brought him to the transit center in Obo.
Once each of the boys arrived in Obo, we were able to provide them with care and trauma healing support with the help of our friends Clementine and Mama Marie Francine, who run the Obo Transit Center and a local volunteer network of host homes. Over the last few months, the boys have lived with host families while we used our Early Warning Radio Network to track down their families and worked with local partners to arrange for them to return to the DRC and be reunited with their loved ones.
It was a long process, but just a few weeks ago members of our team were finally able to accompany all three boys on the next step of their journey home, across the border into DRC. Throughout the journey, the younger boys, Louis and Sam, talked about how excited they are to go back to school and continue their educations. Christopher talked about learning how to become a tailor so that he can provide for himself and his family. More than anything, they all expressed over and over how happy they are to finally see their families who they have missed so much.
When our team arrived at the Congolese border with the boys to pass through an immigration center, a crowd gathered around the boys, who explained that they were coming home after having escaped the LRA. One woman who heard their story welcomed them home, exclaiming that they were the bravest young men she had ever met.
We couldn’t agree with her more.
Today, Christopher, Sam, and Louis are on the final leg of their journey home with a bright future ahead of them. But that wouldn’t be possible without the support of those who give generously to make our work possible. Thanks to you, Invisible Children was there for each of these boys when they escaped. We’ve helped them find their families, make the journey home, and have equipped them with the tools and support they need to continue healing from trauma even after they return home.
This #GivingTuesday help us continue to do the same for others who are returning home from captivity. Give today to help us reach our goal of raising $10,000 in a single day so that other children like Sam, Louis, and Christopher have the safety and freedom they deserve.
*Sam, Louis, and Christopher’s names have been changed to protect their identities.