Discover The Journey

Radio Doc Airs on DTJ Program in Congo

Posted by | DR Congo, DTJ Reportage | No Comments

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“Under the Mango Tree” a radio documentary that highlights DTJ’s psychosocial program in Kiliwa, DRC in collaboration with Queens University, Belfast aired today throughout Ireland on RTE.ie Radio 1 platformed through their Documentary on One series.

The documentary is personal and brings a patient voice to the conversation around children affected by Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army in Central Africa.

We are pretty proud of the kids in Kiliwa – they have come so far from the trauma of LRA violence and we’d sure love you to meet them through this piece – hopefully you’ll take some time to listen here.

We got to spend all spring with them. Spend 38 minutes with them.

[FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE]

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Contacts:

Lindsay Branham                                                        Jocelyn Kelly

Program Director                                                        Director, Women in War Program

202.368.2921                                                              +243.990.92.9255

Lindsay@dtj.org                                                         Jkelly@hsph.harvard.edu

 

Community Suffering Unceasing in LRA-affected areas; International Response Remains Insufficient

New Study Reveals Exhaustive Impacts of Violence

WASHINGTON – LRA – affected communities cite unending effects of LRA violence, detailing the struggle to maintain financial viability, agricultural access, security and protection. A new report from Discover the Journey and Harvard Humanitarian Initiative marks one of the first efforts to systematically document the wide and severe impact of violence on every area of life for formerly abducted children and their communities in northeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).The humanitarian needs of the communities devastated by Joseph Kony’s notorious Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) must be a top priority during the UN Security Council’s meeting on Wednesday.

Respondents in the study stressed that the international community must assist with providing essential services through long-term engagement, including life-saving health services; improving water and sanitation access; and providing psychosocial and educational interventions to formerly abducted children and adults. Additional areas of need emphasized by respondents include:

–        Growing rates of HIV/AIDS; Service providers interviewed cited that HIV/AIDS has become a significant and increasing threat.

–        Psychosocial needs of children returning from abduction by the LRA, specifically young girls who face a myriad of reproductive health and psychosocial consequences;

–        Communities’ restricted access to economic and agricultural opportunities; specifically, their inability to cultivate new lands to serve host as well as displaced populations and its compounded negative effects on food insecurity.

While current conditions mandate emergency-level intervention, respondents assert the need for solutions that will last into the future and address resulting conditions beyond the immediate impact of violent atrocities.

The study affirms the internationally accepted need to capture the LRA’s leader, Joseph Kony, and secure peace for the region. The LRA is a brutal rebel movement that has committed some of the most grievous human rights abuses in Africa in recent decades. The group is particularly known for its merciless conscription of children into its ranks. Currently, the LRA is active in South Sudan, northeastern DRC and Central African Republic. The dire impact of the LRA’s predatory violence includes the looting of possessions, abduction of children and massacre of civilians, as well as the compounded downstream health, psychosocial and economic repercussions

“I don’t know why the LRA exists,” said a leader of an internally displaced persons camp near Dungu, a town in northeastern DRC. “I feel like they’ve just come to kill all of us.”

Although fear of continued violence remains, respondents continually highlighted the need for a more holistic, long-term engagement to protect civilians and establish stability.

“The DTJ and HHI initiative is breaking new ground in that it is among the first to undertake significant analysis of the impact of the LRA on the people of northeastern Congo. This is an area of focus largely neglected despite calls for action to the contrary by humanitarians working in the region,” said Ian Rowe, the Head of Unit DDR/RR – Political Analysis & LRA Focal Point for the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Rowe also emphasizes that this report provides a needed starting point in highlighting the long-term consequences of LRA atrocities on Congolese communities, while also stressing that the international community must conduct more extensive consultation with a broader selection of communities throughout the Ueles in order to grasp the true depth and complexity this region of the Congo endures.

The study asserts that integrated solutions are needed to respond to multi-level problems – continuing to work with communities to build on current protection and resilience strategies, while strengthening the national and international response, will be critical to addressing the continued LRA threat.

The report can be found on both of the Discover the Journey and Harvard Humanitarian Initiative
websites:
[link to report on DTJ]:
[link to report on HHI]:

HARVARD HUMANITARIAN INITIATIVE

The Harvard Humanitarian Initiative (HHI) is a university-wide center involving multiple entities within the Harvard community that provide expertise in public health, medicine, social science, management, and other disciplines to promote evidence-based approaches to humanitarian assistance.

DISCOVER THE JOURNEY

Discover the Journey (DTJ) is a nexus of journalists, filmmakers, storytellers, artists and supporters who use media to expose injustice facing children in-crisis. DTJ’s solution uses media creation, distribution and leverage to contribute to the human rights movement protecting children globally.

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New Report by DTJ and HHI Documents Impact of LRA Violence

Posted by | DR Congo | No Comments

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In January, DTJ’s Lindsay Branham and Harvard Humanitarian Initiative’s (HHI) Jocelyn Kelly traveled to northeastern DRC to systematically document the impact of the Lord’s Resistance Army. They guest blogged for the NYT here. Today DTJ and HHI are releasing the findings from their research in a report titled, “We Suffer From War and More War”: An Assessment of the Impact of the Lord’s Resistance Army on Formerly Abducted Children and their Communities in Northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

Tomorrow the United Nations Security Council will meet to discuss the LRA and what can be done to address the crisis. In lieu of this meeting, the report urges that the humanitarian needs of communities devastated by Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) be a top priority.

Respondents in the study stressed that the international community must assist with providing essential services through long-term engagement, including life-saving health services; improving water and sanitation access; and providing psychosocial and educational interventions to formerly abducted children and adults. While these communities are facing emergency-level challenges now, the study asserts the need for solutions that will last into the future.

While this report affirms the internationally accepted need to capture the LRA’s leader, Joseph Kony, and secure peace for the region, the report also highlights the need for a more holistic, long-term engagement to protect civilians and establish stability. Areas of need that study respondents emphasized are the growing rates of HIV/AIDS; the psychosocial needs of children returning from abduction by the LRA, specifically young girls who face a myriad of reproductive health and psychosocial consequences; and communities’ restricted access to economic and agricultural opportunities.

The LRA is a brutal rebel movement that has committed some of the most grievous human rights abuses in Africa in recent decades. The group is particularly known for its merciless conscription of children into its ranks. Currently, the LRA is active in South Sudan, northeastern DRC and Central African Republic.

“I don’t know why the LRA exists,” said a leader of an internally displaced persons displacement camp near Dungu, a town in northeastern DRC. “I feel like they’ve just come to kill all of us.”

The dire impact of the LRA’s predatory violence includes the looting of possessions, abduction of children and massacre of civilians, as well as the compounded downstream health, psychosocial and economic repercussions. The study asserts that integrated solutions are needed to respond to multi-level problems – continuing to work with communities to build on current protection and resilience strategies, while strengthening the national and international response, will be critical to addressing the continued LRA threat.

To read the full report, click here.
To see HHI’s release of the report click here.

Safe Places

Posted by | DR Congo, Lindsay Branham, Mobile Cinema | No Comments
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A participant practices imagining a safe place during the intervention. Kiliwa, DRC

 

 

The heat sears and beats itself against us as we sit on hand made wooden benches during a regular afternoon in a village outside of Dungu. A steady drum beat of dull warmth. I slip in and out of a soaked awareness of where I am, what I am seeing, what the stakes are.

Since the intervention is conducted in Zande, I watch for non-verbal cues from participants as the session progresses, watching reactions, observing interactions. A translator keeps me generally apprised, but I learn the most from watching what goes unsaid.

We have only done two sessions out of the nine so far and yet one of the head teachers came up to me energetically at the end of the second session and explained emphatically that he has already seen a difference in the children since we first showed the first Mobile Cinema film two days ago. I asked him how.

“I see the children who were not abducted playing with the children that were abducted.”

“Really?” I asked, surprised in such a change in a few days.

“Yes,” he said, “I have seen it. I watch and observe. It’s so good.”

Children accepting other children, sparked through encountering story, their own story, and getting to share their thoughts with one another.

This was more than I expected and I thought back to the session that had just ended, as I watched the children and their parents learn relaxation techniques which are self-soothing skills that can help reduce psychological distress.

One little boy next to me had his eyes closed so tightly, carefully listening to Jacqui (DTJ facilitator)’s instructions on how to imagine a “safe place” and create it in your mind. I watched his face, contracted in concentration, imagining his safe place. He was trying so hard to create one, his determination and effort written clearly all over his small and beautifully formed face. This child was trying so hard to imagine a safe place in his mind because his own reality is full of so many dangers.

And this is why we are here.

Every child deserves a safe place, not just one they have to imagine.

– Written by Lindsay Branham

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The children draw their the safe places during the intervention. Kiliwa, DRC.

 

First Mobile Cinema Screening

Posted by | DR Congo, DTJ Reportage, Lindsay Branham, Mobile Cinema | No Comments

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Their faces were washed with wonder. The 12 foot inflatable screen dwarfed the doorway of the catholic church we were meeting in, the only formal structure in the community. 40 children and 40 parents sat patiently on wooden benches near the floor and stared expectantly at the foreign creation that had erected itself in their church. Justin, one of DTJ’s four intervention facilitators, explained that the story they would see was fiction, but based on real life, their lives. In a dim brick church sanctuary, slants of light coming in through vertical openings in the brick wall cast diagonal light on the cement floor. The projector turned on, throwing thousands of tiny lights onto the blank white screen and the very first Cinema Mobile screening in Northeastern DRC began.

Jean-Pierre and Marie, brother and sister who had just escaped from the LRA, came on screen, and we watched as they were welcomed by their family. The mother gently grasping Marie’s hand in tenderness, the father smiling and holding Jean-Pierre to his chest. A young girl next to me let out a sigh as she watched this scene and buried her head in her hands, a memory sparked or yearned for. The collection of children and adults in the room were silent, fixated on the film being projected in their community and in their language. We watched as Jean-Pierre and Marie faced rejection from their peers, and sat in on their inner thoughts as the art of film invited us to. Heads shook in disappointment as the children in the film ridiculed Jean-Pierre and Marie for having been abducted with the LRA, eyes flashed over scenes that they related to, reactions rose and fell as the film continued. The first film ends with Jean-Pierre alone, conflicted over why the other children don’t see him as a child like them. And then the screen went black.

The suspended magic wiped from the room. The group was split in four and each facilitator led them in a vibrant and open discussion following the story of Jean-Pierre and Marie. One community leader said, “This is our story, this is what we face every day.” Another said, “we have to welcome children who come back from the LRA. It isn’t their fault they were abducted.” After the discussion groups one person from each group shared with the larger group the consensus from their group discussions. We even had a child share in front of the elders of the community, who bravely said, “children who come back from the LRA want to be welcomed. Ask us what happened to us in the bush. Talk to us.”

A teacher in the community asked, “we need help when these children return they act different than they did before and we don’t know what to do to help.”

We hope that over the nine sessions we will spend together that comprised the Family-Focused Community-Based Psychosocial Intervention DTJ is doing in collaboration with Queens University, Belfast with 320 children and their parents that they will be equipped better with how to help. We ended the day with playing a game outside that had everyone laughing together – mothers who had lost husbands to the LRA, children who had been abducted, children who had been orphaned, teachers who have lost the resources to teach, community leaders exasperated by the ongoing insecurity, children who perpetuate stigma, children who are the brunt of it. Together, they laughed and had to work together to make the game work, on equal footing. As they ran underneath each other’s arms holding hands, the symbol was striking. This community already showed such strength and thoughtfulness. They did not abdicate responsibility for these children but began listening to each other, listening to the children, expressing how they could be helped.

After a few test screenings in Dungu with our local partner, people responded positively to the films, but I didn’t expect the communities to so thoughtfully analyze the story and the characters, drawing meaning and depth from what they saw, and quickly apply it to their own context and nuanced challenges.

The process of making the films themselves was rich and collaborative – we worked with a local theatre troupe to cast the characters and created the screenplay from interviews with children who had escaped the LRA and after two focus group sessions brainstorming story lines and adapting to the current context. These films are their films and we can’t wait to return to the two communities on Saturday and continue working together to overcome the many affects of violence.

– Written by Lindsay Branham from Dungu, DRC. Photography by Lindsay Branham

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Mobile Cinema Kadu: First Images from Congo

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Auditions for Kadu, the first Mobile Cinema film with SAIPED, our local partner organization.

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Giving feedback on performances during the auditions for the Kadu.

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Paul plays the character of Jean-Pierre in Kadu, a boy who was abducted by the LRA and has finally come back home.

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Josephine plays the character of Marie in Kadu, who finally escaped from the LRA but is facing a new set of challenges at home.

 

DTJ relies heavily on robust and lightweight equipment filming in Congo amidst harsh conditions and limited access to electricity.

DTJ uses lightweight equipment filming in Congo amidst challenging conditions and limited access to electricity.

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Lindsay Branham with Josephine, who plays Marie, one of the two main characters in Kadu, the first Mobile Cinema film.

Ricky Norris films an emotional scene where the brother and sister coming back from the LRA see their parents for the first time.

Ricky Norris films an emotional scene where the brother and sister coming back from the LRA see their parents for the first time.

The woman who plays the mother of Marie and Jean Pierre and must deal with the complexities of her children returning from the LRA.

Francine plays the mother of Marie and Jean Pierre and must face with the complexities of her children returning from the LRA.

Lindsay Branham uses the donated iPad to show actors in the film the screenplay.

Lindsay Branham uses the donated iPad to show actors in the film the screenplay.

Lindsay Branham at the final mobile cinema scene shoot.

Lindsay Branham at the final mobile cinema scene shoot.

To learn more about DTJ’s mobile cinema program, click here and then share. [tweet_embed id=179628717826514945]

LRA’s Madness

Posted by | DR Congo, Lindsay Branham, Mobile Cinema, Reportage | No Comments

A few days ago I was caught in a thunderstorm by the river. The lightning cracked over the Uele river and the rain came down hard. They say it was the first big rain, ushering in the saison de pluit (rainy season). After months of dust and dry earth, it is welcomed. But in the midst of the heavy winds and thunder, the looting of a school near Dungu centre sparked mass panic amongst the population, causing people to flee across the river, fearing the looting was an LRA attack. Over the last few weeks there have been confirmed LRA attacks moving progressively closer to Dungu. The fear of what comes next has mounted within people and the combination of heavy rain and a few shots fired by the FARDC sent dozens if not several hundred people running with their belongings. I was walking back to the UN when I saw a line of people stretching in both directions as children, men and women, balancing what they owned and could carry, faces drawn taught in fear, told us the LRA was attacking Dungu.

Rumors spread fast, but no one wanted to risk the potential that it might be true. And so they fled. The history of what the LRA has done in this region has left a formidable trail of terror that people are ready to abandon their homes and run at the mention of their approach. “This is our life,” says Ferdinand, who lives in Dungu centre and fled with his community across the river that night. “We sleep but we don’t, we are always alert, in case the LRA comes,” he said, exhausted after a night in the rain, convinced the LRA was near.

For now, though it was confirmed by OCHA that it was not the LRA, people in Dungu question that conclusion, blaming Congolese politics and ulterior motivations for potentially discounting other potentially actual LRA attacks as mere banditry.

The LRA’s method of serial abduction, murder and looting has rendered the people in Dungu on high alert.

That night as the wind blew and the rain came down, knowing dozens, perhaps hundreds of people were huddled somewhere, too scared to go back home, put this madness in perspective. It is just that.

– Written by Lindsay Branham from Dungu, DRC

Investigating the Impact of the LRA

Posted by | Communiqué, DR Congo, Lindsay Branham, Mobile Cinema | No Comments

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DTJ‘s Lindsay Branham and Harvard Humanitarian Initiative’s Jocelyn Kelly have returned from their research assessment in NE DRC investigating the effects of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) on communities in the Haut Uele region of DRC. The LRA continues to wreak havoc on communities in northern DRC, South Sudan and eastern CAR, abducting children for forced conscription, looting communities and killing civilians. Lindsay and Jocelyn investigated the impact these communities feel from the LRA’s presence; the protection mechanisms they have created; the psycho-social situation facing children who have been abducted by the LRA and community capacity to reintegrate the children. A report detailing the findings from the trip will be released in early March. DTJ is thankful for the many people who made this investigation possible, especially those in the communities DTJ visited who so openly and eloquently framed their needs and described the ongoing impact of the LRA.

// Photograph taken by Lindsay Branham in an LRA affected community, NE DRC.

Director of Harvard’s Women in War Program Travels to Dungu with DTJ to Examine LRA Impact

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Director of Women in War Program Travels to Dungu to Examine LRA Impact

Last month, Jocelyn Kelly, MS, Director of HHI’s Women in War program, traveled to northeastern DRC with a colleague from Discover the Journey to investigate the effects of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) on communities in the Dungu region. The LRA has largely moved from northern Uganda into northern DRC, wreaking havoc as they continue their campaign of abducting children for forced conscription. Jocelyn, along with Lindsay Branham of Discover the Journey, investigated the impact these communities feel from the LRA’s presence; the protection mechanisms they have created; and if the LRA uses child soldiers differently than other armed groups in DRC.
Excerpt taken from The Harvard Hummanitarian
The research assessment was DTJ’s Mobile Cinema. DTJ is moving forward based on this research assessment conducted with Harvard Humanitarian Initiative. DTJ and Harvard will publish this report in April.

DTJ Speaks at the 21st Anniversary of the CRC at Harvard University

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This week DTJ’s Jonathan Olinger and Lindsay Branham spoke at the Convention on the Rights of the Child Conference at Harvard University. This year marks the 21st anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) which was developed as a human rights treaty outlining the civic, political, economic, social, health and human rights of children globally. The conference, held December 8th and 9th considered ways to advance the CRC’s transformative agenda with respect to adolescents aged 10 to 18. On Thursday December 8th, Harvard Provost Alan Garber and global philanthropist Albina du Boisrouvray will address the opening plenary session, featuring a conversation between Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen and UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake about the cost of inaction on issues affecting adolescent opportunity. Jonathan and Lindsay will give remarks during the morning session on Friday December 9th.

DTJ is also presenting three multi-media pieces corresponding to the three panels during the conference, giving context and story to the issues being discussed. Maombi: the story of a former girl child soldier in DRC, Not Afraid: the story of a young boy who survived a landmine explosion in Afghanistan, and The Clarinetist: the story of a teenage boy overcoming violence through music in Juarez, Mexico. Maombi was shot and produced by DTJ, Not Afraid was shot by contributing photographer Rafael Sanchez-Fabres and produced by DTJ and The Clarinetist was shot and produced by Dominic Bracco II with support from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting. The stories will be available to the public through DTJ soon.

This 21st anniversary marks an important moment for children and DTJ is honored to bring the stories of children before the world’s leaders as they seek to find solutions to the billions of children living in crisis. DTJ is thankful for this unique partnership between DTJ and the FXB Center for Health and Human Rights at Harvard University.

The conference is hosted by the FXB Center for Health and Human Rights in collaboration with:

■ UNICEF, Gender, Rights and Civic Engagement Section, DPP

■ The Harvard Global Health Institute, Harvard University

■ The Swedish International Development Agency

■ The Committee on African Studies, Harvard University

■ The South Asian Initiative, Harvard University

■ The Du Bois Institute for African and African-American Studies, Harvard University

■ The Mahindra Humanities Center, Harvard University

■ The David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies, Harvard University

■ The Women and Public Policy Program, Harvard Kennedy School

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