Wherever you are in the world, going home and spending time with family is for most of us a safe and caring environment.

But imagine if you went home and were ostracised, pushed to the edge of your community by family and peers? Imagine being pointed at, people whispering behind your back, or old friends not wanting to talk to you anymore.

It is a lonely thought, but one which is alarmingly normal for former girl soldiers in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Many suffer serious sexual and physical abuse while kept in armed groups, living with a daily fear of violence and the prospect of fighting.

Because of such experiences, these same girls are often abandoned by family members and shunned from community life.

For some the rejection is so hard to bear that they return to the very armed groups where they suffered the abuse.

“There were many [former girl soldiers] in the area, but the majority went back to the bush,” a 17-year-old girl from Nyiragongo Sud province told us. “They were not well accepted here; people were discriminating against them.”

We want your help to change this.

We have created a new practical guidebook to be used by local organisations and community leaders in Eastern DRC to change these attitudes and help girls like Alice be embraced by their communities when they go home.

“Neighbours called me ‘prostitute.’ It’s getting better but it’s not always easy, even at home,” she says.

To achieve this, we are setting up National Action Groups. These groups, made up of Congolese organisations and government representatives, will use the guide and train more organisations and communities in how to better support the country’s girl soldiers.

There are organisations doing great work but their practices are not widely known and the needs of girls are thus often forgotten or misunderstood. The guide compiles these good practices and will spread them throughout the country.

Through promoting girls’ involvement in community life, access to education, peer-to-peer support and many other ideas that we firmly believe can radically change the lives of former girl soldiers in the country.

All donations to the appeal go directly towards our work with communities and local partners on how to better support these girls.

The guide may be small, but we know its impact can be great.         

Help us Make Home Home Again for DRC’s returning girl soldiers and give them the chance to fulfil their potential in a safe, caring environment.