In a village once torn apart by fighting and destruction, local peacebuilder Henri Ladyi has brought the community together to build a school for 650 children seeking refuge. Donations from Peace Direct supporters have covered the cost for 71 of these children to attend school. These children have spent months, sometimes years fleeing the violence that has turned their lives upside down, but today they are able to go to school.
One of the children attending this school is a boy named Adirodu. He looks no older than 8 or 9, but he is 14 years old – he looks so young because he has spent the last two years fleeing violence, going for days on end not knowing where his next meal would come from.
The area Adirodu was born is called Aveba in eastern Congo. It’s an area that, at times has been a refuge for people caught in the crossfire of government forces pitted against rebel groups, and at other times, has been the very community caught in the midst of the fighting.
But since April Aveba has been that place of refuge that people strive for and slowly people have begun to return. They came at night, forging paths through the jungle, so they would not be seen or heard as gunfire sounded in the distance. The first to arrive were often women and children, they had no idea what to expect, no reason to believe that Aveba would be any safer than where they came from, except hope.
There are many who came independently, or in groups, but there are some, like Adirodu and his mother, who had help. Henri’s organisation, Centre Resolution Conflits (CRC) has set up what he calls ‘Task Forces’ – groups of local leaders, tribal elders, former militia and people with influence who can go and assess the danger and, when safe, escort people home, so they do not have to take their chances alone. Adirodu and his mother arrived in Aveba this summer. He is one of 2,158 children and adults that CRC has helped return to the area, and one of over 14,000 that CRC has helped return home across Congo this year. Read more about Task Forces.
There are some international organisations operating in the area, but they can only offer limited assistance such as an emergency station which has been set up to offer basic medical and nutritional care to children – but there is no follow-on care beyond a 3-week stay. Eighty per cent of the children in Aveba are unaccompanied, they desperately need a longer term solution.
Henri is helping the children find family members, or host families within the community close. And CRC has been working with the community, talking to them about their rights, and about how they can make their villages more secure and build a better future.
The first thing the people said they wanted was a school for the children, so they could focus on the future. CRC has helped the community to find the funding, by going to faith groups, by asking elders, by lobbying aid agencies and together they have built eight classrooms. Six-hundred and fifty children are attending the school – it is a squeeze, but it is a beginning. They have called the school Kanana, after the place that many of them were taken hostage by the militia, so they will always remember how precious this peace is.
All of the teachers are currently working voluntarily yet there are costs to running the school. CRC provided some basic materials – chalk and exercise books for the teachers and now they are mobilising the community to lobby aid agencies for more funding. They need £15 for each child to attend school for six months.
Henri used donations sent by Peace Direct supporters each month to provide a scholarship to 71 children. Adirodu is one of them. It’s been a difficult journey that no 14-year-old should have to face, but CRC has a trained nutritionist in the area who is making sure his needs are met. Henri tells me he is still weak, but he’s doing well, and as is the right of all children in the world, he is able to learn.
Henri’s work is amazing and at a fraction of the cost of international agencies. You can give him the one thing he needs – your support. Sign up to a regular gift today and do something incredible each month, so that children like Adirodu have a chance for a safer future.
We have chosen not to show you the photo of Adirodu today, but in time when he is healthier, we hope to share a photo of him with you. Instead the above photo is of some of the stronger children who are also attending school because of donations from Peace Direct supporters. (The little one might not be quite ready!)