Meet Simon, a Peer Counselor: Building resilience for children born as LRA captives

Meet Simon, one of GRG’s trained community peer counselors who lives 15 miles (25km) from the Uganda/South Sudan border in Madi Opei, Lamwo District. Simon was born while his mother was captive as a “wife” of an LRA soldier and escaped to return home with his mother’s best friend at the age of ten after his mother’s passing.

Upon return, he could not trace his mother’s relatives, so Simon lived with his mother’s best friend’s family for five years. While living with this family, Simon found it challenging to play and connect with the rest of the children in the community because he was perceived as different. He was often drawn to games such as fighting with toy guns, and his peers feared he would harm them.

He became isolated from his friends and eventually started to live by himself at the age of sixteen as he struggled to better his life.

During GRG’s trauma recovery workshop, Simon shared his experience and expressed interest in acquiring skills that could help him and other returnees cope with community stigma and rejection. Since January 2020, Simon has been involved with GRG individual and group counseling sessions.

The individual GRG counseling sessions have facilitated his own sustainable trauma recovery, helping Simon by identifying support networks (community and self) and teaching him to utilize his own tools for building resilience and managing crises or shocks in the future.

 “I was privileged to join the GRG group and receive psychological support through the group and individual counseling,” said Simon.

“Most notably, my participation in the GRG community peer-to-peer counselors’ training has changed everything about my view of life. I now interact more with people because I have identified the strength in me and accepted to confront the legacy of my past experiences. I find joy in accepting who I am and helping others cope with their life struggles. This approach that GRG uses allows for former victims and perpetrators to communicate with each other and develop positive coping mechanisms for social inclusion and trust.”

Trained peer counselors like Simon are able to provide basic counseling support to peers in GRG groups and to the rest of the community, widening GRG’s reach.