Helping Girls Like Haija Heal

As summer comes to an end, I know that many of you are preparing to get your kids ready to go back to school. But for Nigerian girls like Haija whose lives have been disrupted by violence and unimaginable loss, something as simple as going to school is a distant dream. Haija was just 12 years old when Boko Haram terrorists came to her village and abducted her. I want to share a small part of her harrowing story with you, in her own words.

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“Boko Haram invaded our village, one of the villages in Borno state. They. . . [killed] a man in front of us. . . and told us if we closed our eyes or turned our heads or faces away or blinked, they were going to kill us as well.

“[Before they left] they told us not to bury that man. Of course after a while. . . the community decided they were going to bury him. That was when the second invasion came. [The villagers] buried the man, and these guys came and they didn’t find the body, so they opened fire. They opened fire for hours, from 9:00 AM to some time I can’t remember. Any male they’d see, they’d shoot to kill. They burned houses, destroyed the village.”

While Haija now lives in the relative safety of an internally displaced persons (IDP) camp at Malkohi, her journey of healing has only just begun. ChildVoice is creating safe spaces for girls like Haija, and giving them the psychosocial counseling and social activities they so desperately need to recover from what they’ve been through. No other nonprofit organization currently operating in Nigeria offers this level of care. But to keep providing and strengthening our innovative and vitally important counseling programs, I need your help to fund them. That’s why I’m asking you to join me in giving hope and healing to Nigerian girls whose lives have been so violently interrupted.

Let me tell you some more about Haija. Her ordeal didn’t end with the attack on her village. She, along with other girls, was taken to a makeshift prison and psychologically tortured. She managed to escape after three weeks, resettling for a time in another village with her father -- only to be abducted a second time when Boko Haram invaded that town in 2014. Enslaved, Haija was eventually forced under threat of death to accept a husband. Her will all but broken,Haija finally submitted. But incredibly, the man she had agreed to marry was killed in battle just two weeks later. She seized theopportunity to escape again, running all the way to Adamawa State – a journey of several days. Finally, after two brutal years of enslavement, she was once again free.

Two years of terrifying captivity and abuse left Haija living in a constant state of fear. Relentless nightmares robbed her of sleep and stability. She was psychologically frozen, as is so often the case with the level of trauma she has endured. But Haija has connected with ChildVoice and has been receiving psychosocial counseling, participating in group activities, and just as importantly, making friends. She has made remarkable progress thanks to ChildVoice’s caring staff, whose work is only possible because of caring people like you. Haija is incredibly grateful, but she knows that she has a long journey ahead to heal from the psychological wounds she’s suffered. As she put it:

“ChildVoice has become like parents to me. Everything they tell -- all the instructions that the counselor gives, they come and we practice it. . . If there’s anything new out there, I’m willing to learn, if ChildVoice will teach me. I’m willing to practice it, because I’ve seen how my life has changed over the period of time that ChildVoice has been here.”

I’ll be blunt. I need your help to give traumatized Nigerian girls like Haija the ongoing counseling—and the hope--they need to recover and rebuild their lives. Caring supporters like you play a vital role in helping them heal. Please consider making a generous donation today! You can give one of two ways: either online at childvoice.org, or by returning the enclosed response card with your donation. You can make a difference with your gift!

Thank you for standing with me to help Nigerian girls like Haija heal from wartime trauma!

Conrad Mandsager

Founder and President, ChildVoice

P.S. I need your help today to continue providing psychosocial counseling and other vital health and education services to girls like Haija living in the IDP camps of Nigeria. I appreciate any amount you can give!