Bringing the children home: Masika’s story
Masika is an amazing and wonderful girl who lost all hope. She is now proud and able to talk loudly against those who wish to recruit children to armed groups - Henri Ladyi
Masika is a 15 year old girl, who was forcibly recruited into an armed group at just 12 years old. For three years she was used as a sex slave
I was made to sleep with different boys and was having sexual relations with five or even eight boys the same night. Because of this, today I have a big problem with my sexual health. I was made to cook food for about 100 men, and to carry food to soldiers on the frontline of military attacks. Other times I was used as a spy – Our commander would send me as a sex gift to the enemy commander so I could spy on their plans.
Today, thanks to help from local hero Henri Ladyi, Masika is running a small roadside restaurant in Beni Town. Like the children featured in Channel 4’s Unreported World documentary, Henri helped to liberate Masika, but this is just the beginning of his work.
Once out of the militia group the children still face so many challenges – often they do not know where their family are, and the grinding poverty caused by over a decade of civil war means that what children need more than anything else is a way to support themselves.
Henri budgets just £21 for each child, enough to provide clean clothes, travel costs, and some basic training in a skill so the children can support themselves. Henri liberated 650 children in the last year, 10 year old Freddie is working as a baker, he should go back to school later this year. 13 year old Kalungu is working as a hairdresser, he is working with 14 year old Mbila who came out of the bush with him, together they hope to have their own salon one day. The funding to do this work is entirely dependent on donations from the public – individuals like you and me. Make a donation and you can help these children today.
And Masika, she is helping Henri to make children and parents understand the reality of life in an armed group – so they do not drift to the bush for the promise of a fresh meal.
It was not easy to me to talk about my experience, because I went through many bad things. But I need to help children to understand the danger of integration into the army.
Henri’s organisation has networks that spread across all of eastern Congo. Last year he toured a roadshow showcasing stories like Masika’s that reached 2600 villagers in some of the most remote parts of Congo. In every village they showed a ‘Wall of Hope’ covered with messages of support from Peace Direct supporters – to show the children they are not alone. You can still leave a message for the children of Congo on the Wall of Hope.
Henri’s work with child soldiers is just a tiny part of what he does. In the last year he has helped 14,000 people return home after fleeing violence, persuaded 1,020 militia members to lay down their arms and return to village life, and set up eight livelihood co-operatives so that villagers can pool their resources for farming and trade. Support him today – make a donation.