Baraka (pictured right) looks younger than 13, but this is the age others believe him to be.
He sleeps in a tent at a children’s centre with other people uprooted by the conflict in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.
Baraka is an orphan. For two months now, he has been living at the Don Bosco children’s centre in Goma. The centre reunites vulnerable children who have been separated from their families with parents or other family members.
It is also home to thousands of displaced children and families, abandoned babies, street children and orphans.
“I came here when we ran from fighting,” Baraka explains.
“My mother died from malaria when I was nine. My father was taken by the rebels and they killed him.
“When my daddy died, I joined a crowd that was running to Goma. I cried. What else could I do?”
Around 1,200 women and children like Baraka remain at the centre following the fresh outbreak of violence in eastern Congo in October last year. In this place of safety, they receive food, water and firewood.
The centre provides children with primary, secondary and professional education. There is also a kindergarten for pre-school children.
Older children learn skills such as carpentry, plumbing or tailoring.
Baraka goes to lessons in a World Vision emergency school tent at the centre. Today, he has been learning maths with other six-to-twelve-year-olds.
He recalls the help he found in Goma after fleeing his home in Kibumba.
“I stayed with a family for one night.
“When they heard I don’t have a father or mother, they felt sorry for me. Then they brought me here.
“I’m on my own because my younger brother died when my mother was giving birth to him.”
Baraka is just one of many children in eastern Congo whose lives have been turned upside down by loss. At 13, he has outlived the rest of his family.
But through provision of safe places where they can eat, sleep, play, talk and learn, the children of the Congo are finding ways to begin to come to terms with what they have been through.