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Art therapy helps heal the wounds of war in eastern DRC

Every morning, Butsiire Samuel goes to this camp in Kanyaruchinya near Goma, in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s east. Together with a team of volunteer artists, he uses his talent to teach drawing to displaced children.

The aim is to give them hope again through art therapy, while providing them with psychological support centred on artistic expression. The paintings are coloured under their brush to represent peace, security and their difficult everyday life.

“I am a displaced person,” Jean Claude Ndayishimiye says. 

“I came here to learn with others. I had a good teacher who teaches me how to draw. Now I am drawing our flag to show that I can never forget our country, even if Kagame [Editor’s Note: President of Rwanda] takes us anywhere, I can never forget Congo, that is why I am drawing, but also to keep hope;” the child adds.

Unable to go to school, many children come here every morning to learn. On that day, Butsiire Samuel and his team accompanied the hundred or so pupils who attend the one-of-a-kind class.

“We supervise these groups because the children have fled the war. They are traumatised and stressed.” 

“We think that through art we can contribute to giving them back their zest for life, because when they draw they feel free. They can’t go to school anymore, but with painting here they are freed from a weight and they give a message to the whole world,” the volunteer explains.

During the course, the kids leave the harships of camp life behind them. Kavira Sikuli brings her son every day. The dark episode of their displacement while fleeing fightings between the Congolese army and the armed M23 rebels is unforgettable.

“The M23 chased us out of our home in Rutshuru and we came here near Goma. Our children were traumatised because of the M23 bombs and bullets. When we came here, we met these volunteers who are teaching our children to draw, thank God.”

For months, the war has triggered massive population displacements.

Since they found refuge further away from the theatre of conflict, they are living in extremely difficult humanitarian conditions.

Thousands of children who fled with their parents remain unschooled and unattended in various refugee camps, according to the UN’s body OCHA.

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