When Bethesda Counseling Center Director, Noé Kasali, was driving home one day, he saw three kids selling baskets on the side of the road. Noé stopped to purchase a basket for his home. As he spoke with the kids, he asked them where they were from. They responded, “We are displaced from the Oriental Province.”
Knowing these children had likely experienced trauma and other hardships that come with displacement, he invited them to come with their families to Bethesda. A week later, they arrived at Bethesda along with 17 others who had fled the armed group known as the ADF.
Violence and attacks in rural areas in and around the Beni territory have caused many people to flee their homes to find refuge in the town of Beni. According to the United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), there are nearly 700,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) in the Beni territory – about 57,000 of them in the town of Beni. People forced to flee or leave their homes – particularly in situations of armed conflict – are generally subject to heightened vulnerability in a number of areas. Displaced persons suffer significantly higher rates of mortality than the general population. They also remain at high risk of physical attack, sexual assault, and abduction, and frequently are deprived of adequate shelter, food and health services. Many suffer from trauma. The overwhelming majority of IDPs are women and children, who are especially at risk of abuse of their basic rights.
As the number of IDPs increase in Beni, our community is stepping up to provide opportunities for people to improve their situation and livelihoods.
At Bethesda, counselors continue to work with these families as they manage grief, trauma and stress, and try to survive away from the familiar – their homes and fields. Additionally, Bethesda has launched a new program that focuses on IDP communities, distributing food and economic assistance to meet physical needs while offering healing music workshops. Here is just one story that illustrates the impact Bethesda has made on the lives of those who have experienced unimaginable grief and loss.
Paulin was only 15 when his parents were killed by rebels in the town of Eringeti. He was brought to Bethesda Counseling Center by his aunt because Paulin had become socially disengaged at school.
The Bethesda team provided trauma care to Paulin through expressive arts. He was able to talk about his pain in a safe place and started to feel more peace within himself. While at Bethesda, Paulin found other teenage boys with stories similar to his own. Today, he attends the Healing Music service, a weekly community outreach Bethesda program, with his aunt and many other kids.
Recently, Paulin’s aunt shared “Paulin is now back at school and his ability to engage has improved. Thank you for all you do for him.”
The Holistic Family Development (HFD) program is also serving those displaced by armed groups like the ADF. Operating in a particularly low-resourced part of Beni known as Bustili, we are witnessing more and more women displaced from their fields, a primary source of their families’ livelihood. Thanks to your support, HFD can offer opportunities for vulnerable women to sew and learn other skills that will support their family during this period of displacement. Here are two snapshots that illustrate the way HFD is helping empower women so they can provide for their families.
“I’m 27 years old and a widow. My husband died three years ago leaving me with much. I have three children and I am displaced by the conflict. I witnessed a massacre. After my husband died, my father bought a field to take care of my children. But, the ADF rebels had driven us out of the field, so I no longer have any means to support our livelihoods. So, I decided to come and sew to help support my children while waiting for it to be safe. By God’s grace, today I am able to sew several patterns of clothes like a dress [and] shirt, and more and more friends have started asking me to sew their clothes.” ~ Kalai Kyakimwa
“I am a displaced victim of the Mambelenga massacre, where the ADF rebels cut the throat of my father. I have eight children, of whom four are studying and the rest are not studying due to financial means. My husband has been in Kisangani since 2016 and even until today communication has broken down. He very rarely calls me. This situation prompted me to come and learn baking and sewing in order to help my children with their care. Now I am able to sew a dress, blouse, shirt, and skirt thanks to the training that HFD gives me. I thank God for this empowerment.” ~ Masika Zeno