Child soldiers are very popular with armed groups. The children are easy to manipulate, fight relentlessly and can be sacrificed first. Their “training” is hard: to make the children obedient, they are forced to kill members of their own family or to drink blood of the battled enemies. They are drugged and alcoholised to make them feel free of all constraints and scruple. They learn that only the strongest wins and that a gun in your hand gives you power and security. Approximately 30.000 children and adolescents are abused as child soldiers in the Congo.
In four transition centres Caritas Goma takes care of former child soldiers who were able to desert or who were wounded and left behind by the militia. In numerous cases employees of Caritas Goma were able to negotiate the liberation of child soldiers.
The children receive medical care and are offered clothing, food and a place to sleep as well as psychological support in the transition centres. As soon as the worst wounds of body and soul have healed, Caritas employees try to find the children’s parents or family and support the families in reintegrating their “lost” children. Caritas also supports its protégés in the long run: Caritas pays the monthly school fees and offers courses for professional education for more than 2500 former child soldiers.
Since more than ten years Caritas Goma supports former child soldiers and victims of the civil war in East and North Congo. As the war escalated again in autumn 2008 Caritas Goma enforced the emergency assistance. Caritas employees support more than 150.000 refugees with food, blankets and emergency shelters.