When he was just 15-years old, Benedict, a young boy from North Kivu in DRC; was captured by a militia group and made to become a child soldier. He knew that the things he was being forced to do were wrong however, and soon found the courage to escape. Thanks to your support of this project: Benedict is now back home, earning a sustainable living, and helping to put his younger sister through school - but there is still much work to be done. This is his story.
“I used to live a happy life. I lived with my parents and was a big brother to my little brothers and sisters.”
“[One evening,] I was stopped by bandits holding guns. They intimidated me. I had no choice but to follow them into the bush. I was terrified. They took me to join a militia group. I was trained to handle [a] gun, to smoke cigarettes of all kinds and to become a combatant ready to die for our captain.”
“Life became more and more difficult. To eat we had to rob villages or trap people on the roads. I remember being forced to go and intimidate a father. He gave me a lot of money that I had to bring back to our commander. I felt more and more annoyed by these acts and wanted to stop doing them.”
“Thankfully, I made friends with two other children [who were] the same age as me. One day [we were] sent to go and steal hemp for our commander from a field. With my friends, I decided to escape and stop living life in the militia. So instead of stealing the hemp, we ran away. We were so afraid of being caught by the other soldiers. But we did it. We walked for two days and two nights to escape.”
“One morning, a mother found us sleeping in her field: exhausted, hungry and covered in dirt. She was afraid and tried to make us move. But we begged her. She gave us clothes and helped us [to] get a bicycle so we could go to the local market in my home village. My friends, the ones I escaped with, lived in another village. We had to leave each other and go in different directions. I was very emotional. I couldn’t stop crying.”
“Walking down the road to my house, my mother was the first to see me. She ran towards me. Her eyes were filled with tears and she hugged me so strongly. She was crying, laughing and shouting all at once.”
“A few days after my return, I learned about a group [Peace Direct’s local partner in North Kivu, Centre Résolution Conflits (CRC)] who supported children and young people that had been in armed groups. My mother introduced me to them and I learned about their projects. I took part in their hairdressing training course at their training centre. I learned how to cut hair, to look after customers, to keep my equipment clean and in good condition. Once I completed the training, I received a starter kit, so I could keep my own business going. I became a good hairdresser, and now I’m know by many in my village. This allows me to earn money and even to pay for school for my two little sisters.”
“Because of this my life has completely changed. I am proud to have become an important person in my family, and my village. I dream of a better future.”
By donating to this project, you are helping former child soldiers like Benedict contribute towards the health, safety, and peacefulness of their communities. A further donation of just £15 pounds today could pay for our local partner to trek into the bush to meet with rebel groups and identify child soldiers, whilst a generous donation of £60 could pay for a former child soldier to learn a trade such as hairdressing or brick-making. With your support, we can provide more opportunities to children like Benedict, and continue to help them to build peace in their communities. Thank you.