“At night I can finally sleep!” says Arthur (fictive name), a 15-years-old boy from Central African Republic who fought with the rebels for two years. During the first months he spent in the COOPI rehabilitation centre he couldn’t sleep: every night his thoughts were tormented by the images of the men that he watched dying.
A lot of shocks animate the nightmares of every child soldier: they are forced to violence, degrading works, physical and psychological abuses. Sometimes they are not enlisted by force, but sometimes they join the armed groups just because they have no other choice: they lost their families or followed the only relative in the army or they wanted to take vengeance for all the injustices they suffered – as we’ve been told by four cousins. None of them was conscious of the consequences they were going to incur.
“COOPI’s psychosocial team works every day to re-establish a normal life for these children; in spite of the chronic difficulties which cross every Country destroyed by the war”, tells us Valentina del Lago, coordinator of COOPI’s programs in CAR.
Since December 2015, 91 children have been officially demobilized from the armed groups in the area of Bria in the Central African Republic, and we were given their custody. In our transit centres the children start a consciousness way waiting for being rejoined to their families or alternatively reintegrating themselves into society. In order to this, they attend classes of reading and writing and they start learning a job.
Nevertheless, it is not always a linear process, as Arthur’s story shows.
“Every story we live daily put us in front of a difficult and incomprehensible reality, but what helps us to go ahead is the children’s great capacity of recovering, their will to re-start living and their enthusiasm for the little successes. It happens when they win a football match or receive a pair of trousers or just some biscuits and candies and they smile as they haven’t done since a long time. So, we understand that they came back to their childhood”.
COOPI’s project for family reunification and for the education of the children victims of the fights in CAR is financed by UNICEF.