Samuel's (8) Journey to Safety in DR Congo

There are currently an estimated 45,000 Burundians living as refugees in neighbouring DR Congo - on the run from violence and armed conflict. Nearly half of these refugees are children - children like Samuel. He was just four years old when the violence in his country erupted. Now, he takes part in the creative and educational activities of our I-DEAL programme in DR Congo.

Samuel shares his experience about his flight to safety

Life as Burundian Refugee

Samuel is just four years old when the violence in his country erupts. Through the months, the situation becomes increasingly dangerous and 390,000 Burundians are forced to flee their country. More than 45,000 of them end up in DR Congo - with most living in refugee camps and villages in the east of the country.

Life in these refugee camps is tough. There is a lack of food, medicine, clean drinking water and electricity.

Samuel refugee in DR Congo - War Child programmes

Samuel is one of the many Burundese refugee children living in the Mulongwe camp

Photo: Jeppe Schilder

Hiding from the Armed Men

For many children in the Mulongwe refugee camp, Samuel’s story is all too familiar. Samuel was seven years old when armed men stormed his family home in the middle of the night. The armed men threatened his father with a knife and forced him to lie down on the floor. Samuel witnessed it all and says he still suffers from these memories.

"We were all very scared", he recalls. “We ran away - my mother, brother and sisters. We were in hiding when our father found us, hours later. The armed men had taken off his clothes.” After this terrifying night, Samuel and his family left Burundi, with nothing but a sheep and all they could carry. Their journey to safety lasted two days and forced the family through dangerous, fast flowing rivers.

“He used to be angry and withdrawn. He wanted to be alone. But he has learned to open up more. I see a happier child now."
Samuel's mother Jeanne

Our work in DR Congo

Building towards a better Future

Samuel and his family finally reached the Mulongwe refugee camp in DR Congo. Here, War Child provides children such as Samuel with much-needed psychosocial support. Fleeing from violence often has a profound impact on the lives of children. Many of them become anxious, distrustful and show reclusive or aggressive behaviour. The sooner War Child is able to support these children and their parents, the less likely they are to develop further psychological problems.

I DEAL and Parent DEAL

Samuel takes part in the creative and educative activities of our I-DEAL programme in DR Congo. These creative life skills trainings feature music, dance and theatre and help encourage a positive attitude and increase the resilience of children like Samuel. Our activities help them deal with stress, resolve differences without violence and inspire youth to build their future after armed conflict.

To best support Samuel and his siblings, their mother is participating in our Parent Deal sessions, where she receives parenting tips and guidance. Jeanne says “The sessions have taught me a lot. I now take the time to be with my children, to talk and pray together.”

*All names in this story have been changed to preserve the safety of the children who take part in our programmes.

“The War Child sessions have helped us become closer as a family."
Samuel's mother Jeanne
War Child Holland programme in DR Congo

For the children we organise creative activities to enlarge their resilience and deal with their traumatic experiences.

Photo: Jeppe Schilder