Written by our director: Cassandra Lee
There’s a strange beauty that comes in hope.
I sat across from a young girl, let’s call her Abigail. Aged 15. She was an orphan, a title she herself was still getting used to. She wore a bravery I still think about, this… courage, as she found her way to a plastic chair under large tree facing 4 foreign faces.
“Five months ago they came into my village”
To the strangers before her she spoke about the raid. She recounted the chaos as people ran to flee for their lives and she spoke about the death of her parents during one of these attacks.
“I didn’t see them being killed,”
Something that most of the individuals we saw that day told about us.
“But I had to go to the morgue to identify their bodies.”
Her parents bodies had been collected the day before and put back together by the mortician. Now when I say “collected” I quite literally mean “collected.”
When the raid happened in her village her parents were found at their home. They were stripped of their clothes, their hands were bound behind their backs and the attackers forced them to kneel on the ground before they chopped up their bodies with a machete.
When our courageous friend went to the morgue, her parents bodies were put back together like a puzzle for her to look at one last time to confirm they were indeed her family.
My head was swimming as she told us her story. I prayed a constant prayer under my breath, “God, give me words to say”
When if was finally my time to reply all I could respond with though was— “ I’m sorry.”
“I’m sorry your parents were killed.
I’m sorry your village was under attack.
and I’m so sorry that you have that image of your mom and dad in your memory forever now”
Her head lowered as she broke into small sobs.
We all did.
Later that day we saw her quite a bit more. We ate together. We laughed together and we were able to assign her a counselor/mentor who will stand by her as we were able to provide her with funds for schools fees, uniform, meals etc.
Sometimes we talk about hope as if it’s intangible.
Abigail’s story, and other’s just like it can sometimes challenge us to our core. Our anger over what’s happened, the devastation of what she just went through and then sometimes the frustration of “Why are more people not responding for her? Why is such evil allowed on our watch?”
But that day, when I think of my time with her I don’t think of her anger. No, I looked into the eyes of hope that afternoon. A young girl who doesn’t let the title of “orphan” define her. Instead she gets up every morning and chooses to fight for another day. That young girl has the spirit and resilience to change her country. To go the lengths so that this violence isn’t repeated for her children.
She is my hero and when I think of her, I know there’s hope for a peaceful Congo.