The Democratic Republic of Congo, DRC, has been wracked by a series of complex conflicts for decades, with over 40 different armed groups fighting for diverse reasons. The country ranks joint bottom (with Niger) on the Human Development Index 2013. Almost 2.5 million of the 65.7 million people who live in the DRC are displaced, and 59.2% of the population lives on less than $1.25 per day. There are on average 8 doctors and 6 nurses between 10,000 people, and 7.6 million school age children are believed to be out-of-school – almost half of the school-aged children in the country.
Theodore*, 18, comes from the North East of the DRC – a region where there are regular attacks on civilians by armed groups. When he was a child, his family fled an attack on their village and settled in a camp for internally displaced people on the outskirts of Goma. In 2008, during the violent ‘Battle of Goma’, Theodore’s father and mother were killed, and he fled again, this time on his own as a 14 year old. He travelled by land through several African countries, and ultimately, after a journey of over 18 months, arrived in the UK aged 16.
Theodore was taken into the care of the local authority and given a temporary form of leave to remain in the UK that would last until he was seventeen and a half years old. He was placed in a house with other separated children who had also recently arrived. In the house, Theodore struggled to communicate and make friends because whilst he spoke French, the other boys spoke Dari or Arabic. He suffered from regular flashbacks of the violence he experienced in his home country, and found it difficult to sleep at night because of the images in his mind of all he had seen.
The hope of getting an education was the main thing that kept me going", Theodore told RSN.
In the DRC, he had attended 2 years of primary school before his village was attacked, and had then been out of school for 3 years before attending a couple of terms in an NGO-sponsored school in the Goma camp. Despite this interrupted education, Theodore has always wanted to become a teacher. When he arrived in the UK, we helped him get a place in an ESOL class at college and matched him with Sarah*, one of our educational mentors. When he first met with Sarah, Theodore told us that she was the only adult in his life who was not paid to engage with him, but was doing so simply because she wanted to. This simple fact started to help Theodore feel less alone and isolated. Theodore has now been mentored for just over a year, and his teacher tells us that since being matched with a mentor his confidence has grown, his insomnia has reduced and he has made faster and better progress with his studies. Last week he called our team and said:
You have helped me like no one else has helped me! Every time I think of you I say thank you God because you have helped me study better”.
*His name has been changed and this is not a photo of him. Photo from Depositphotos.com