Invisible No Longer: Helping Child Soldiers Reclaim Their Lives

Jenny Inglee is a Los Angeles-based journalist and the Education Editor at TakePart.

Between January and March of this year, there were 107 attacks and 178 confirmed abductions by the Lord's Resistance Army in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Central African Republic, and Sudan.

Most of the people abducted were young girls forced into sexual servitude or boys forced to become child soldiers. 

Adam Finck of Invisible Children recently returned from these regions and says the "scope and severity of the recent LRA attacks far exceeds what you can find in the news."

He and team members at Invisible Children are trying to bridge that gap and promote peace and lasting stability in the region.

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Adam on a research trip for protection initiatives in Bas Uele, an isolated district in northeastern D.R. Congo. (Photo: Invisible Children)

While in central Africa, Adam met some of the children abducted by the Lord's Resistance Army.

One young man was forced into the LRA in 2008. Adam tells TakePart, he "went into detail on how he was forced to raid villages, loot supplies, kill civilians and how he finally was able to escape."

After the child was free, there were no services to address the trauma he had undergone and he went straight back into his community.

Another teenage girl that Adam met in Bas Uele, a remote region of D.R. Congo, was held in captivity for a year and a half. "Against her will, she was given as a wife to an LRA commander," says Adam.

This month, Invisible Children is asking global citizens to “speak out without speaking” on behalf of this young boy and girl and all the others living in war-affected regions of central Africa.

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Adam met this 11-year old boy in Bas Uele. He was abducted by the LRA and eventually managed to escape. (Photo: Invisible Children)

The '25' event—symbolic of the 25 years of war waged by Joseph Kony's Lord's Resistance Army—takes place on April 25. Leading up to the event, the organization is hoping to get as many people involved as possible.

You can help by spreading the word, raising funds for Invisible Children's work in central Africa and going silent for 25 hours beginning on April 24 at 7:00 PM and ending on April 25 at 8:00 PM.

Across 18 cities, Invisible Children will be hosting Break the Silence events. "We're gathering as many people as possible and will break the silence with bands and powerful speakers from around the world," says Adam.

After the funds from the events are tallied, where exactly do the donations go?

With the help of local partners on the ground, Invisible Children, has outlined a Protection Plan for community members at risk of violence. The goal, Adam says, is to "implement a strategy that will protect civilians from LRA violence, provide rehabilitation services for the most traumatized victims and encourage peaceful defection of LRA combatants."

The first thing that is being done is the implementation of an early warning network. "We're working with other organizations to expand a network of high-frequency radios in some of the most remote pockets of northeast D.R. Congo."

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The high-frequency radio network will help community members find safety if trouble is coming. (Photo: Invisible Children)

The communities are completely cut off from communication and the radios allow community members to communicate to one another and the broader network. "They will be able to receive security information, have the capacity to protect their communities and give vital information to humanitarian responders," says Adam.

Twelve radios are currently in use in high-risk communities as a part of the early warning network.

Also in progress is a rehabilitation program for former child soldiers and young women abducted by the LRA. "We're partnering with local leaders and an LRA rehabilitation specialist to launch what is going to be the first rehabilitation center in the LRA affected region of Congo."

This center will provide intensive care and psychosocial support to help youth reintegrate back into society.

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