What To Do After Life as a Child Soldier
The plight of child soldiers and children affected by conflict remains a major concern throughout Africa. Even reports from the recent fighting in Mali highlight how children have been forced to join the conflict.
But nowhere has the problem been greater than in northern Uganda, ever since Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) began its reign of terror. The decades-long conflict traumatized thousands of children. In recent years, as Kony moved his army out of Uganda, programs were launched to rehabilitate former Ugandan child soldiers and traumatized children. Kony currently operates in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), South Sudan, and the Central African Republic. Aid for Africa member Invisible Children, which brought the hunt for Kony to the world through its videos, supports three rehabilitation centers in Uganda for former child soldiers.
On Tuesday, Invisible Children and its partners in Africa opened Centre Elikya, the first rehabilitation center for LRA-affected children in the DRC. Elikya, which means “hope” in the local language, will serve up to 135 children at a time for stays of six months in which they receive the support they need to return to their families, attend school or, if beyond school age, learn a skill to secure a job. Professionals provide mental health support, trauma counseling and art therapy.
Invisible Children takes its name from the thousands of children who have suffered through the years from the LRA’s brutality. Since 2004 it has been working to bring Kony to justice and stop the LRA through its awareness-building films and the LRA Crisis Tracker, an early warning system completed in 2011. Invisible Children also provides scholarships and small-business training to children and families displaced by the conflict in northern Uganda.
Want to learn more about how the rehabilitation program helps children? Watch this video.
Aid for Africa is an alliance of 85 U.S.-based nonprofits and their African partners who help children, families, and communities throughout Sub-Saharan Africa. Aid for Africa’s grassroots programs focus on health, education, economic development, arts & culture, conservation, and wildlife protection in Africa.