In 2020, Invisible Children and our partners helped reunite 37 children, women, and men with their families after they escaped captivity in the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). That’s 37 people who will be spending the holidays together thanks to your support this year.
Bringing families back together can be a long, difficult, and cost-intensive process. Even after an individual manages to escape, it takes time to find their families and secure the resources for travel, psycho-social support, and more that will be required. In fact, right now, there are 30 people in Invisible Children’s care who are still waiting to go home. With your help, we can make that happen.
This holiday season, give former LRA captives the gift of going home.
This year, we helped people like Simon,* Freddy,* and Celeste.*
Simon* was kidnapped by the LRA in Gulu, Uganda in 1999 and forced to become a child soldier at 11 years old. By early 2020, Simon was 33 years old and in an LRA group operating along the border between the Central African Republic (CAR) and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Simon became a father while in the LRA; he has a six-year old son named Freddy whose mother, another abductee, died in captivity.
In the same group as Simon and Freddy, was a woman named Celeste.* She was abducted from her home in northeastern DRC in 2010 when she was around 12 years old. Like many other conscripted girls, she was forced to become the “wife” of an LRA combatant and, after her first “husband” died, she eventually became Simon’s “wife.”
Like many in LRA captivity, Simon wanted to escape and return to Uganda, but was afraid that he would be harmed, imprisoned, or killed if he tried to return home. But Celeste, who had an infant son from another combatant, knew that she needed to get herself and her child home to safety. This past February, she was finally able to convince Simon to escape with her and both of their sons.
As soon as they escaped, the local community alerted Invisible Children of their need for support and we began working with local authorities and communities to provide care and locate their families. Within a few months, we were able to reunite Celeste and her son with their family in a nearby community in DRC. But Simon and Freddy’s journey remained difficult because they were so far from Simon’s family in Uganda.
In March, just a few weeks after they escaped, we arranged for Simon and Freddy to fly to Uganda to begin the process of reuniting with their family. Unfortunately, the flight was cancelled due to COVID-19 travel restrictions. As a result, Simon and Freddy were stuck in DRC for several months as our team worked day in and day out to find a way to help them get home safely.
Finally, in September, we were able to secure a flight to Bunia, DRC where MONUSCO (the UN mission to DRC) continued negotiations with the Ugandan government for Simon and Freddy’s return home. Finally, on November 6, the father and son arrived in Uganda.
When Simon and Freddy arrived in our care back in February, we alerted our partners at Resolve Crisis Initiative in Uganda, who were able to locate Simon’s family.
A couple of weeks after arriving in Uganda, and after more than 20 years in captivity, Simon was finally reunited with his family. And Freddy met his extended family for the first time.
Helping Simon and Freddy was a collective effort. The Invisible Children team worked tirelessly over the last nine months to make sure that Freddy and Simon received proper care while stuck in DRC, and coordinated with MONUSCO and other organizations to help get them home. Without Invisible Children’s coordination, it’s likely that Simon and Freddy would still be stuck in DRC today with few options for returning home and reuniting with their family.
But our work is only possible because of you. Today, 30 women and children are currently in Invisible Children’s care and waiting to return home. We are working to get them there, but we need your help. In total, it will cost a little over $30,000 to make sure that every one of these former LRA captives can safely reunite with their families in the new year.
This holiday season, help bring families together.
Give the gift of going home.
*Simon, Freddy, and Celeste are all pseudonyms.