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Desperate Times In The DR Congo

Illustration of a person writingI walked into my daughter’s room the other day. It was very quiet and she didn’t even realize I had stepped in. She was facing the window humming a song as she brushed the mane of one of her toy horses. My daughter’s love for horses and dogs, especially puppies is well documented by all the pictures pasted all over her walls.

In a corner of her room is a pile of stuffed animals she has collected throughout the years; a collection that includes horses, teddy bears, bunnies, and Beanie Babies. She will soon be turning twelve, but to me she is still my little girl. She is the youngest of my children and it made me glad to see her playing with her toys when I came into her room.

As parents, it brings us satisfaction to realize we have been able to provide for our children with all their basic needs; that we have fostered an environment that allows them to enjoy their childhood without being burdened by the problems that afflict the rest of us.

So when I see my daughter humming a song and playing with her toy horse, I can’t help it but to think about all the children around the world who don’t have the privilege of a family, even worse, children no older than my daughter having to carry the weight of raising a family.

Refugee camp in the DR CongoLast week I read about a young girl in a UN refugee camp for people displaced by the most recent fighting in the Democratic Republic of Congo whom they call Rachel, I am sure not her real name. She arrived at the camp with her six siblings, all younger than her, the youngest being only three-months-old.

The children were left orphaned when both parents were killed during the fighting around their village. Realizing their hopeless situation and the fact than unless they fled they too would be killed, Rachel decided to gather her six siblings including a baby and fled into the hills. She was only eleven.

Two and a half months later, she made it into a UN refugee camp. All six siblings were alive including the baby. The aid workers at the refugee camp were amazed. How did this child manage to stay alive? How did she manage to provide for all the children for the two and a half months they wondered in the wilderness? How did she find the way into the refugee camp?

It has been very hard for me not to think of little Rachel in Congo lately. Every time I see my daughter playing and laughing and enjoying her childhood, I think of the eleven-year-old child in Congo being a mother to six children. They say it takes a village to raise a child, but what happens when there is no village or when the village is run by children?

I serve with International Children’s Care, an Adventist ministry that provides homes and families to orphaned and abandoned children in various countries of the world including the Democratic Republic of Congo. Rachel’s story is more common than we would like to imagine.

After the latest fighting in the Kivu region most international relief agencies abandoned the area taking with them the only source of support for destitute children and homeless families. Thousands of children have been left orphaned and it is not unusual to find families where the head of the household is a child.

We have a small facility for destitute children in a small island in Lake Kivu. As you would imagine the facility is already very crowded but this week we took fourteen more orphaned children. We really don’t know how we are going to manage to house and provide for these fourteen children, but what else could we do? Could we say no when they came to our door?

Working for the destitute can be overwhelming sometimes. I wish we could have saved 100, or more, but like Mother Theresa once said, “If you can't feed a hundred people, then feed just one.”

Joel Reyes
Director Public Relations, ICC

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