In this hot and dusty town in eastern Chad, Jesuit Refugee Service lives its mission of accompaniment by working with former child soldiers to help them return to a normal life after several years of conflict. The program also seeks to prevent any new recruitment of children into fighting units.
In Abeche, two JRS social workers help about 40 children. Each former child soldier is visited at least once a week, to ensure those who are enrolled in school are attending classes, and to learn if the business-owners are facing any new problems they may need help with. JRS organizes meetings with teachers and community leaders to ensure the former child soldiers are not being marginalized but are instead being fully integrated back into local society.
Children greet visitors in Abeche, Chad. (Christian Fuchs — Jesuit Refugee Service/USA)
I became a soldier when I was 14. I went with my brother and five others. We were facing injustice: we had seen our animals stolen and our friend’s parents killed. My uncle was killed, and my nephew was killed, so I became a rebel. (Christian Fuchs — Jesuit Refugee Service/USA)
"I was the ‘chief’ of child soldiers; I had about 30 soldiers. Mostly we did kitchen work, but we fought in one battle. Now I am trying to support myself with this [roadside stand] and I am going to school. Only God knows about the future, God will provide." (Christian Fuchs — Jesuit Refugee Service/USA)
"I became a solider at age 12, when five others and I joined a rebel group after our village was razed and looted. All of our animals were taken and our homes were destroyed. We wanted revenge, and to defend ourselves. I was a soldier for one year." (Christian Fuchs — Jesuit Refugee Service/USA)
"My dream is to study as much as possible. I don’t want trouble, I just want to study. I want to be a doctor. If that dream does not happen I want at least to be in business and support my family and myself." (Christian Fuchs — Jesuit Refugee Service/USA)
The former child soldiers share the same desire: a return to a 'normal' childhood, like that lived by these children in Abeche. Time with family, an education, a life free from fear.(Christian Fuchs — Jesuit Refugee Service/USA)
Christian Fuchs is the Communications Director for Jesuit Refugee Service/USA, an international Catholic non-governmental organization whose mission is to accompany, serve and defend the rights of refugees and other forcibly displaced persons. You can support the work of Jesuit Refugee Service/USA by clicking here.
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