Children learning to be children again

Children learning to be children again

On the third and last day of my visit to the East, we visited CAJED, the centre of transit and orientation of children formerly associated with armed groups located in Goma. The recruitment of children is one of the most serious violations of a child’s right and therefore an issue of great concern to UNICEF. At CAJED children learn to be children again, despite all the horrors they witnessed and the hardships they faced while being in the armed groups.

5500 CHILDREN SUPPORTED BETWEEN APRIL 2004 AND JULY 2012

At the time of the visit, CAJED offered a home to over 125 children awaiting reunification with their families. CAJED is doing an amazing job. From April 2004 to July 2012, CAJED took care of more than 5,500 children aged 8-17. These are mostly boys because girls that have come out of armed groups are considered particularly vulnerable and are being assisted in a different way.

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While at the centre, I had a chance to speak to John* who is also awaiting reunification with his family. He told us about the horrible ordeal he had gone through. While leaving school, he was forced to carry goods for the armed group. He was then kept by the armed group for over 2 years until he managed to escape.

The suffering inflicted on him in these 2 years is difficult to imagine. It is a story of unbelievable hardship, but also of courage as he kept on believing that escape was possible.

He is now able again to use this courage and determination to invest in his future. A compelling illustration of how important this work is. And a story that deeply moved me.

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While touring the centre,  I got a sense of the range of activities being implemented ranging from education and vocational training classes to painting, dancing and sports. These activities also help children to deal with their trauma and prepare for a new life.

YOUTH REPORTERS DETERMINED TO MAKE THEIR VOICE HEARD

After the visit to CAJED, I gave an interview to Goma’s Young Reporters on my visit to the East. It was great to see these young people so committed to report on the challenges facing their community.

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Finally, I had the pleasure to meet with UNICEF Goma staff. It made my feel so proud to meet a committed, motivated and professional team. I greatly admire them for all they are doing for children and their families, especially because the armed conflict made that they have had to work under very difficult circumstances in the past years.

It is now already time to leave Goma for Kinshasa again. I am leaving with a much better understanding of the very complex situation in this part of the country. And I have been able to witness myself how big the humanitarian needs of children and their families are, and what we are doing to address those.

But I also leave with the images of smiles, of songs and dance, and above all of hope that the children have given me.

*Name has been changed

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 Photos: UNICEF RDC / NDIAGA SECK

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Yoka Brandt

Yoka Brandt a rejoint l’UNICEF en février 2012 au poste de Directrice générale adjointe pour les affaires extérieures. Elle dispose de 20 ans d’expérience dans le domaine de l’aide internationale et l’action humanitaire d’urgence. Tout au long de sa carrière, Yoka Brandt s’est intéressée aux questions de développement, en particulier sur l’Afrique et le plaidoyer pour l’éradication de la pauvreté.

Yoka Brandt joined UNICEF in February of 2012 as Deputy Executive Director of Foreign Affairs. She has 20 years of experience in the field of international aid and emergency humanitarian action. Throughout her career, Yoka Brandt has taken an interest in development issues, particularly with respect to Africa and the eradication of poverty.

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