This year, we have helped many former Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) captives reunite with their families. One of those people is David, a seventeen-year-old boy from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Reunification and Host Families-35

In 2012, David was eleven years old, in his third year of primary school. One day, he went with his mother to collect water outside of town. On their way back, they were ambushed by a group of LRA fighters. They took him away from his mother and into the jungle.

Screen Shot 2018-12-11 at 3.21.38 PM

The LRA fighters held David captive for six long years. As he and his kidnappers traveled on foot through dense jungle, David was forced to carry heavy loads. The group was moving constantly and, soon after David’s abduction, crossed the northern border of DRC into the Central African Republic (CAR), looting communities and abducting other children along the way.

Many remote communities in CAR are vulnerable to attacks due to their isolation from other communities and a lack of infrastructure.

Every day, David suffered. He was frightened of his captors and longed for home. One day, in May of this year, David found his opportunity to escape, while the group was traveling north in CAR. While the commanders were not paying attention, he slipped away and ran as far as he could.

David then walked until he came to a village where members of an Invisible Children-trained Peace Committee helped him make his way to Obo, CAR, where Invisible Children staff and community partners made sure that David received medical care after his long and arduous journey.

Community Mapping and Peace Committee-45

Invisible Children teams train Peace Committees in remote communities across central Africa in how to safely welcome and help returning LRA captives like David.

While David received care, we began searching for his family. Our staff and partners in DRC used our Early Warning Network to communicate with community leaders. We were able to make contact with David’s mother to let her know that her son had survived LRA captivity, escaped, and would soon be coming home.

David stayed in Obo, with an Invisible Children-supported host family before continuing his journey home. During that time, as our team worked to arrange his trip back across the border to DRC, he and his family prepared to be reunited. With help from his host family, who are trained by Invisible Children, David learned techniques for coping with the trauma of his captivity. Meanwhile, our community partners in DRC worked with David’s family and leaders within his community to make sure that everyone was prepared to support David as he made his return to daily life.

Finally, in September, after six years in captivity, four months of preparing to return home, and more than 200 miles of traveling, David returned home and was embraced by his family once again.

Reunification and Host Families-37 (1)

Today, David is with his family, thanks to his own courage, the work of local heroes across central Africa, and the generosity of people around the world who give to support Invisible Children.

In 2019, and until every last LRA captive is home, we will continue helping reunite families separated by LRA violence in central Africa. This holiday season, help children like David come home and give others like him safer communities in which to grow up.