Albert* plays football with other children at World Vision's Child Friendly Space

A former child soldier finds peace at World Vision's Child Friendly Space in Kasai Central

By Olivia Omwenge, Operations Manager, Kasais Emergency Response

“My name is Albert, I am 15-years-old. Before the conflict, I was going to school but now I am not going to school. Now I collect bamboo and sell it to survive.

I’ve stopped going to school since I joined the militia group in September 2016. 

The tshiota(militia camp) was near our school. The soldiers were harassing people in our quarter, so the elders in our community convinced me and my friends to join the militia in order to fight against the military. I received three baptismswe drank alcohol mixed with human blood and a powdered skull, and then we were sent to the front line of the battles.

I took part in almost 12 battles. I have participated in the fighting in Tshikula, at the airport, at Tshibambula and other villages. I spent seven months in the militia; we were eating cassava leaves, cassava, and palm nuts. I have killed more than 40 soldiers.

The elders lied to us. They told us that we would not die, but when I noticed that my friends were dying, I decided to leave the militia. It was not easy for me to go home, instead, I went to a village called Bunkonde and after seven months I decided to return back.

When I got back I found the Child Friendly Space (CFS) which was running activities but I had difficulty taking part with everyone else. One day I decided to see the priest and asked him to pray for me and advise me how I can take part in the CFS activities; he told me to just jump in.

Now the CFS and the activities there have become the centre of my day. I arrive at the CFS at 8 am to play different games with my friends: football, cards and dice, draughts (checkers), and I learn how to live in society again.

I am happy to come to the CFS because here I can relax and I have friends. After playing with my friends, I go to look for bamboo to sell.

On Sundays, I go to church to hear the priest teaching. I would like to be a teacher but as my father and my older brother disappeared during the conflict, my mother is struggling to support me, my two younger brothers and three younger sisters.”

World Vision has been working with children and families affected by the conflict in Kasais since August 2017, and has reached over 38,000 children directly through protection and education projects. This includes the creation of 18 Child Friendly Spaces in Albert's and other communities, providing psychosocial support for children and a safe place for them to play. Many more children and their families have been reached through food and cash assistance and nutrition projects. Altogether, World Vision's response has reached almost half a million people in the past year.