February 2015 - DRC
Since 2012, RET’s team in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has been working with adolescents who have been victims wars and their atrocities to help them regain the will to live. This success is possible thanks to a series of educational activities taking place in Uvira and Fizi, in the province of South Kivu.
RET has already published a few articles describing the programme and the lives of adolescents who participate in it. This time, we would like to present the story of a group success, as RET does not only aim for individual victories, but also for the development of a sense of community and understanding. Successful coexistence is a necessary quality in eastern DRC – a quality for which youth should act as standard-bearers.
This brings us to discussing the story of Wade, Sari, Usho, and Wanya, former members of local armed groups. Like almost all former combatants who arrive at RET’s Centre for Transit and Orientation (CTO), they were full of hate, pride and dissentions, with a high propensity for delinquency.
Nevertheless, after successful support, medical and psychosocial care and an adapted orientation programme, they are today the proud owners of a small business in their return community. Together, they own a tremendously popular soap factory. As proof of their collaborative spirit, they have named it “Umoja Ni Nguvu“ (Strength through Unity).
They have been the first in the village to launch this type of activity and their hard work has been very much appreciated. In fact, the local population can now avoid travelling hundreds of kilometres to go to the city of Uvira to buy soap. Everyone is a winner.
Not content with being a team of entrepreneurs, they also work together in their personal lives. Their actions go well beyond confronting market challenges – they also aim to help each other to build a better future.
Thanks to the profits generated from the soap factory, they have decided to join forces and pay the tuition fees for Wade, Usho, and Wanya, the three members of the team who want to follow formal education. Simultaneously, they have the project of setting up a pasture for small and large livestock to even better ensure their future.
The recruitment of adolescent soldiers in eastern DRC is a tragedy for an entire generation. However, RET’s experience in DRC proves that this can be reversed. If Wade, Sari, Usho, and Wanya were able to overcome the trauma of war and build a better future together, so too can others.
During our last visit they told us, “RET did for us what our parents were never able to do – give us drive and motivation in life.” At RET, we believe that we simply gave them an opportunity, they are the ones who seized it.