Gloria* spent most of her childhood in captivity. Early one morning in 2010, when she was seven years old, a group of Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) fighters attacked Gloria’s community in eastern Central African Republic (CAR). She was at home with her older sister and a neighbor when the LRA abducted her.
For eight long years, the LRA held Gloria prisoner as they moved throughout central Africa, crossing the border into the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Along the way, the LRA fighters would attack and loot other communities and kidnap other children like Gloria.
“The fighters would go into the villages and loot supplies. Afterward, we would go to the fields and eat the cassava.”
While in captivity, Gloria and other children suffered and silently longed for freedom. Gloria began to think of escaping and, one day in April of this year, she had the opportunity to do so.
“In the bush, we were beaten and suffering a lot. We could not eat often and I saw the LRA killing other children. All of that made me think of leaving. I knew that when we left camp to move somewhere else, I would have a chance to escape.”
Gloria bravely took her chance and managed to escape that day. She walked through the jungle for a month, until she arrived in a community where she found help from some local leaders who contacted Invisible Children. With the help of the local community, we arranged for members of our team to travel to the community and bring Gloria to our office in Dungu, DRC, where she could be placed in the care of a volunteer host family as we worked to locate her family.
Today, Gloria is safe and in the care of Mama Courageous, a Congolese woman who is part of an Invisible Children-supported network of host families. The two have formed a strong and special bond that is helping Gloria begin to recover from the trauma of her captivity.
“Now I am with Mama Courageous and she is kind to me. She treats me like a daughter and, to her children, I am a sister. I no longer fear being shouted at or beaten and I know that with Mama Courageous I am safe.”
Soon, Gloria will be reunited with her family in CAR. Using our Early Warning Network, we were able to locate members of Gloria’s family who are eagerly awaiting her return home. And thanks to the support of people around the world, in the coming weeks, we will arrange for Gloria to travel the nearly 500 miles that separate her from home.
Today, hundreds of people remain in LRA captivity and their families are waiting for them to come home. For them, Gloria has a message:
“For all those held captive by the LRA. Come out of the bush. It is better to go than to stay. I have escaped and now I am not afraid. I can sleep at night and know that I am safe, free from the LRA.”
Donate to Invisible Children and fund programs like Come Home radio messages, host-family networks, and violence prevention training. Together we can help LRA captives reunite with their families and help central African communities prevent violence and keep their children safe.
*Gloria’s name has been changed.