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Central African Republic: After the horror, keeping children safe

By Lizzie Moncada, Senior Programmes Officer, Save the Children 

Jordy is 13 years old. When we met, I could tell from his eyes that he’d suffered something terrible.

He had witnessed the murder of both his mother and his father in a village in northern CAR. His village was then set alight and he fled for his life, walking over 350km to the capital Bangui.

He somehow found himself in a camp for displaced people in Bangui and a passerby took him to a Child Friendly Space (CFS) there, run by  Save the Children. It was there that Jordy started to open up little by little about what had happened to him, although he is still too devastated and scared to tell us his real name.

Drawing, talking, recovering

Save the Children’s trained volunteer, Sinclair, took time to talk to Jordy every day and to encourage him to draw, when he felt like it.

“I like going to the Save the Children space because I can meet my friends there,” Jordy tells me. Sinclair eventually asked Jordy if he would like to move to a foster family, organised and supervised by Save the Children. Jordy decided to stay with the foster family, at least until his extended family can be located.

A foster family’s love

His foster mother held his hand as I spoke to him and it was clear that despite all he has gone through, he is, for the moment, in the hands of people who care about him.

When asked about his future, Jordy says he just wants to be safe. But like all children, he has a dream: “I want to be a mechanic, so that I have a way of earning a living and protecting my family.”

Throughout our time talking, Jordy had seemed nervous and sad, but as I got up to leave, Sinclair started singing a song from the CFS. Jordy’s eyes lit up and he started humming along.

Remembering how to be a child

Save the Children’s CFSs are places where children can remember how to be children. They can play, dance, sing and meet others their own age, and share stories and experiences in safety. They also have the chance to speak to staff and volunteers who have been trained in psychological first aid. Like Jordy, they can begin to deal with what they have been through, and recover.

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