“He was very supportive and listening carefully. From then on, the Save the Children worker and his colleague would come and see me, giving me advice and talking to my foster family.”
In a matter of days, Véronique*’s life changed completely and brutally. The 16-year-old girl lived peacefully with her father, mother and five brothers and sisters in a small village in Kasai province of the Democratic Republic of Congo. But when fighting broke out between government forces and the militia, her whole village was forced to flee into the bush to seek protection.
However, safety was elusive. Both her parents were killed in the fighting and she was separated from her siblings. Veronique still doesn’t know where they are or if they are even alive.
Véronique hid for two weeks in the bush, hungry and scared of the soldiers and the wild animals that live in the jungle. She made her way to Tshilundu, a village 45 km from her home. Upon arrival, she found refuge with a foster parent. In a new town, unable to attend school, Véronique withdrew into her own sadness.
A fortuitous encounter with a community outreach worker at a Child Friendly Space run by Save the Children helped Véronique slowly begin to heal.
“It was then I had the opportunity to talk to someone about what I went through in my village during the fighting,” says Véronique. “He was very supportive and listening carefully. From then on, the Save the Children worker and his colleague would come and see me, giving me advice and talking to my foster family.”
Children displaced by the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo gather in a child friendly space set up by Save the Children in the village of Tshilundu. There, children can learn and play in a safe environment. Photo: Save the Children
Slowly, Veronique started to feel better. She was able to enrol in school and now has something to look forward to.
“I am glad of this support so I can study and one day my dream of becoming a teacher can come true,” she says.
The conflict has spread across the country and has left 4 million people displaced from their homes. Thanks to funding from the Canadian Humanitarian Assistance Fund, Save the Children was able to offer various services in the Kasai region in 2017 and is implementing another program in Uganda for DRC refugees fleeing conflict in the Kivu region. Their work includes setting up safe spaces for children to play, providing counselling, psychosocial support and family reunification. They also held sessions to raise awareness of the harmful impacts of family separation, sexual violence and the use of children by the militias.