It’s one thing to read about the atrocities of children being used and abused by armed groups. It’s a very different thing to sit next to a child and hear her story firsthand. Perhaps even worse, is meeting a 10-year-old girl and seeing the horrors of war through her eyes.
Rayan and her 12-year-old brother Ibrahim were at home alone when the armed men arrived. They had come for their father, but in his absence, they looted the family home, abducted the two young children, and brought them to the bush.
I was scared. There were lots of men with guns. They hit us and shouted at us. Night time in the bush was the worst. When it was dark. When you heard footsteps you wondered if they were coming to get you. —Rayan, 10 years old
The civil war in South Sudan has seen over 19,000 children abducted or forcefully recruited into different armed groups. In the process some were killed, others maimed, and all were abused and stripped of their childhoods.
Rayan and Ibrahim are among the more than 1,000 children who have been released and reunited with their families. But thousands are still trapped and for every day that a kid is in the bush they will be victimized. We can help, but we need you. Children like Rayan and Ibahim need you.
And for the ones who have found their way back home, the journey to healing is long and difficult. The horrors that they have faced and the trauma they experienced will take specialized support, patience, and time.