Day 18~ April 18th~ Congo

Looking ahead

Being born into conflict, struggling to survive, finding themselves short of even the most basic of life’s necessities; what kind of future are these children looking forward to having?

If children are the hope for our future, if they will be the beacon for much needed change to come, then don’t they deserve much more than the world is giving them? It is so much easier to close one eye and just look at Africa as a lost cause that only rarely makes it to the front pages of our newspapers, but these issues are real, the children exist, their futures are hanging by a very thin thread.

Isn’t humanity dependent on humans feeling the need of other humans and doing something about it? Is enough being done?

These are some of the questions that haunt me as I go through this photo archive and as the memories these children begin to illuminate themselves in my mind again…

Day 11~ April 11th~ Congo

recapturing childhood in Goma

When I knew I would be meeting child soldiers in Congo, I had no frame of reference as to what I would be meeting. I had seen some snapshots sent to me before my trip, I had read the statistics, the articles, seen photos, but all of that did not prepare me for my first meeting. It was a cloudy hot day in Goma, on the northern shores of lake Kivu in Congo, when I was escorted to the gates of what looked like a small prison with barbed wire, metal gates and armed security. But as I would later find out, the prison was not intended to hold the children in, but to keep the men who abducted them and want to find them again, out. It was a safe house for these demobilized child soldiers and a place where they were temporarily housed, medically attended to, given lessons, recreational activities and access to arts that are all meant to help them transition back to life after live in the military. I took this photo in the first few minutes that I was there, because I arrived at the time when the children were in the middle of recreational activities and the place was charged with so much energy, from football, tribal dance, weaving, singing, music playing, painting… and it went on and on for the few hours that I was there.

By the year 2009 when I visited Congo, about 30,000 child soldiers were demobilized by the United Nations and other national and  international organizations. The children were treated against shock, diseases and trauma before attempts to integrate them in their own villages and families or foster families in Congo.  Thousands of children still remain in the armed forces today.