Since the age of 15, Mako (not his real name) fought with armed groups in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). After two years of military life, becoming desperate, disoriented and losing the will to live, Mako met RET. For him this was the beginning of a profound transformation that perfectly illustrates the success of RET teams’ work in eastern DRC.
After two weeks at RET’s Centre for Transit and Orientation (CTO) in Uvira, this former combatant turned into an example for his peers. To encourage his positive development, RET’s teams appointed him Head of Youth at the Centre. This responsibility has helped him regain his self-esteem and served as an example and motivation for other young people in the Centre.
The psychosocial and medical support Mako received on arrival at the Centre gave him the opportunity to take full advantage of the following educational and vocational guidance services that allow former combatants to make choices and prepare their future. Training programmes, zones of return, opportunities to develop income-generating activities, financial means of reintegrating in families and returning to school are the themes and decisions for which young people receive support. Mako chose sewing as a training programme because it seemed promising in his rehabilitation community.
After two months of intensive training, Mako had shown considerable progress, repairing his peers’ torn clothes and sewing uniforms for those of his classmates who have opted to return to school rather than enter vocational training. This is a great achievement according to his instructors who are specialists in the field, as they say that it takes at least 4 months to master this kind of work.
Following his reintegration in his community, Mako opened a tailor shop, which he calls My RET (my life supported by RET). His workshop is only the second in his village. He is convinced that with the materials received, the life plan developed at the Centre and a return to the living conditions of his community, he will be able to build a tinned house and own and raise some livestock within two years. His hope is then to marry and found a family.
It is true that Mako is only one among thousands of young people still trapped in a life of violence, but his example perfectly illustrates how education is an effective tool to protect young people in vulnerable situations. The results of RET’s Demobilisation, Disarmament and Reintegration programme are extremely encouraging and show that youth in eastern DRC can still believe in their future.