Murhabazi gathers the boys together before they go down to the courtyard where the uniform-burning ceremony will take place. They are wearing different uniforms, because all the various fighting groups in DR Congo use child soldiers. The boys at the home belonged to different armed groups. But here in the photos – for the boys’ own safety – they do NOT necessarily wear the uniform they used when they were soldiers.
• Visits armed groups and informs them about children’s rights, so that all those fighting are aware of how children should be treated in war, according to both the UN Convention and Congolese law, for example, that child soldiers are forbidden.
• Organises the release of child soldiers and girls being sexually exploited during visits to armed groups.
• Visits refugee camps and takes care of unaccompanied refugee children and street children.
• Offers freed child soldiers, exploited girls, unaccompanied refugee children and street children protection, a home, food, clothes, healthcare, psychological help, and the chance to go to a school that prepares them for returning to ordinary school again, as well as vocational training in tailoring or carpentry.
• Traces the children’s families and helps the children to return to their homes. They always prepare the children’s families, as well as neighbours, politicians, religious leaders and teachers in the villages, well in advance, so that the children are accepted and welcomed back properly. If it is not possible to reunite the child with his or her family, BVES helps the child to find a foster family. A child is never sent away from Murhabazi’s home until they know that the child will be going to a safe environment.
• often supports the children’s families financially so that they can afford to let the children go to school and have enough food. It may be that the organisation helps a parent or older sibling to find work in order to support the family.
• Often helps freed children with school fees and school uniforms long after they have left Murhabazi’s home, sometimes up until they start university.
• Informs the rest of society about children’s rights. One way that Murhabazi does this is via a regular radio programme.
Text: Andreas Lönn
Photos: Bo Öhlén