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Baracka: a reason for hope in the Congo

Once upon a time, a 10 year-old boy called Baracka was recruited into the army in the Democratic Republic of Congo. He was a soldier for four years, until Save the Children helped him to leave, and to reintegrate into civillian life. My friend Imogen interviewed him a few weeks ago, so Baracka can tell you the rest himself.

“When I was in the army, I worked as an escort. My job was to protect the battalion. For a young person like me, life was very hard and we were treated badly. I would like to tell all children now that life in the army is not a simple thing.

Save the Children took us out of the army and helped us to start a good life. I am an orphan and I live with my uncle, who is a farmer and doesn’t earn much money. When I first got back to the village I worked with my uncle on the farm but we really struggled to survive.

Baracka at work as a tailorI chose to learn tailoring because knowledge is something that stays with you. I can’t lose this skill now I have it. When I finished my training, I joined my friend as a partner at his workshop. I think to be successful in life you have to have courage. I like my job a lot as it helps me to earn money and gives me a good standing in the community. I am well respected by others, which is important to me.

I offered to accept other young Save the Children trainees at our workshop because I want to give other children who have suffered like me the opportunity to have a good life. I am happy to teach the girls this skill. They are good students. I think girls can do good things, just like boys, and this work is for everyone”.

Baracka is a reason to have hope for the DRC’s future. He was orphaned, taken as a soldier, missed his education, lived in poverty, and he still chose to learn a skill, make a new life for himself, and then was generous enough to offer his time and support to help other young people into a better life too. He’s a bigger person than me.

There’s another Baracka I’d like to tell you about. The second Baracka also used to be a soldier, was also demobilised and supported back into civillian life by Save the Children, and now he’s employed as a driver for Save the Children in Goma. Last night he drove me home. He informed me in perfect English that Arsenal are his favourite football team and that he likes my French because it’s funny.

So long as I’m amusing someone, I’m happy.

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