For Mado (8) from DR Congo, Music and Play Have Been Her Saviour

When rebels invaded the city of Goma, taking her father hostage, Mado's world turned upside down. In our safe space across the border in Uganda, she is using music and play to overcome her nightmares and, slowly but surely, dream again.
Mado fled from DR Congo and is now participating in our programmes at a Safe Space in Uganda

Mado fled from DR Congo with her mother and is now living in Uganda

Photo: Andrew Pacutho

A bad dream

It's the middle of the night when Mado hears gunshots for the first time. Her mother says that it is the rebels invading their city. The next night, Mado's father is taken hostage. “We haven’t seen dad since”, she says. “I don’t know if he’s still alive.”

In the days that followed, she lay awake at night listening to the gunshots and incendiary bombs. Her bedtime ritual - a cheerful lullaby - no longer works to put her to sleep. The world has turned into a bad dream. During the day, the nightmare continues. Mado and her mother have no choice: they flee to Uganda.

Fleeing on foot

They are on the road for three days. Walking - fearful that they will be caught. Mado and her mother flee through gardens, forests, and finally through the mountains. Exhausted, they reach the border with Uganda. The next day they cross the border - another unsettling experience. Mado: “We first had to do a corona test and then we were taken to an emergency shelter. A few days later we were brought here.” 'Here' being a sprawling refugee camp in Uganda.

Mado and here mother from DR Congo are in their bed in a refugee camp in Uganda

Mado's mother: “I want to create a better life for my daughter so she can make her dreams come true."

Photo: Andrew Pacutho

Mado fled from DR Congo and is now participating in our programmes at a Safe Space in Uganda

Living in the refugee camp is difficult for Mado, but the activities help her feel at home

Photo: Andrew Pacutho

Memories of home

“When we first arrived in Uganda, Mado was exhausted, sad and anxious”, recalls Mado’s mother. “We are finally safe here, but the thoughts of her father and home are very heavy.”

“We have lost so many people”, she continues. “Mado misses our beautiful home, the church and her family and friends in Congo.” In the refugee camp, Mado has been participating in TeamUp and Can't Wait to Learn programmes for a few months now.

A big difference

"In the beginning, Mado was afraid to go to school”, explains Jean Claude, a counsellor at the War Child Safe Space. “Now she walks to school and even takes the lead in her group of friends. The difference is huge." Mado adds enthusiastically: “I am learning to read and write with my new friends - and math, which I enjoy most.” She continues in the same breath: “After the tablet lessons, I go to TeamUp. The activities and games such as Anamali Kuku and Wadamu always make me very happy. Then I forget the war for a while and I am happy.”

Mado is taking part in War Child's Can't Wait to Learn educational programme on tablets

Mado proudly talks about the Can't Wait to Learn lessons - and how maths is her favourite subject

Photo: Andrew Pacutho

Mado from DR Congo loves to participate in War Child's TeamUp and Can't Wait to Learn programmes in an Ugandan refugee camp

Mado also takes part in TeamUp’s structured play and movement-based activities

Photo: Andrew Pacutho

'A second chance'

“Mado's joy makes me so happy”, says her mother with a big smile across her face mirroring her daughters. “The fun spills out. It reminds me of how we used to gather and celebrate in Congo.”

“Mado prefers to play every day for five hours. She really wants me to sing, dance and clap along too. War Child has given us a second chance. Thanks to Can't Wait to Learn and TeamUp, Mado feels at home in Uganda and forgets all the misery for a while."

“The activities and games such as Anamali Kuku and Wadamu always make me very happy. It reminds me of my life before the war."
Mado (8) from DR Congo

Daring to dream again

These days, Mado prefers to watch a video every night before going to sleep. She downloads it on her mum’s phone in the refugee centre and then her mum sings the lyrics to her.

Mado: “Cartoons are my favourite. After we pray together, I brush my teeth and make my bed. Then I have to go to sleep. I always want my mum to sing to me. At first, I often had nightmares or dreams about home. I miss our beautiful home and our family.”

As the nightmares slowly but surely begin to fade, Mado is daring to dream again about the future she wants. “Now, sometimes I dream that I work in an office and print and type”, she says. “Or that I work in a hospital, just like my aunt who is a doctor. I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up, but I do know that I want to be like her.”