Our BBC Radio 4 charity appeal was broadcast today. Here is the appeal which was read by Jane Garvey, presenter of the station’s Woman’s Hour programme, and details on how you can support our work in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

"Your 15-year-old daughter is in an armed militia, caught up in the middle of a bloody civil war. Raped, beaten, she is fighting daily for her own survival.

One day she escapes and somehow finds her way home, where the door is slammed in her face.

This is the reality for thousands of families in Democratic Republic of Congo. Tens of thousands of school-age children have been trapped in the conflict which is ravaging this central African country.

The UN estimates that forty percent of them are girls.

They are victims of extreme brutality, though many who manage to escape say the rejection they face when they get back home is the hardest part of all.

Schoolgirls who have been raped are labelled ‘prostitutes’.  Instead of being welcomed with open arms, they are ostracised.

Grace’s story

Grace lives in Katogata, a small village surrounded by green hills and cassava crops in eastern DRC.

When Grace was 15, her mother was killed in a militia attack. Terrified and desperate for protection and revenge, Grace joined a rival armed group.

It was a terrible mistake.

After three months Grace escaped and tried to return home but her aunt, ashamed and fearful, refused to take her in.

Grace was orphaned, completely alone, and haunted by her experiences. She was desperate for acceptance - and to get back into education.

Local child protection workers led her to Child Soldiers International.

The power of education

The charity has got Grace back to school. Working with local leaders, it also organises effective, low-cost workshops to restore community relations so these outcast children can be welcomed home.

Today, Grace is living happily with family again. She has friends at school and is studying hard. She says she has the joy to live again, as do her classmates who have survived similar traumatic experiences."

You can read more about our work helping returning girl soldiers in DR Congo here

Thank you 

Thank you so much for your interest in our work helping young people caught up in the tragedy of war as child soldiers.

Our young people need us every day - and it is only with your support we can give them the life-saving support and care they need.

Donations to our BBC Radio 4 Appeal can be made over on the BBC website and alternatively if you would like to set up a regular donation with us you can do so here

If you wish to speak with a member of the team about our ongoing work in the country or the organisation's work more generally please email [email protected] and one of the team will respond as soon as possible. 

We are a small team but we promise we read every message we receive and aim to get back to emails within the same week.