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15 April, 2008
Seven years ago, on April 15, 2001, when Adriana Chitula was just 13, soldiers entering her village in Angola caused her family to flee in separate directions.
Photo: Christian Aid/Sian Curry
"We walked every day for a month and slept in the forest every night until we reached Zambia."
Even though she has now returned to Angola, she has yet to be reunited with her parents.
"The last time I saw my family I was 13-years-old. I was cooking lunch on April 15, 2001, when some neighbours warned us that soldiers were on their way.
"I left the food in the pot, fled in a blind panic into the forest and didn’t stop running for about an hour. I thought we were all going to die.
"There were gunshots and kids screaming and in the midst of the chaos I lost sight of my parents. Thankfully I spotted my grandma in the forest and was so pleased that I started crying.
"When it became dark we slept in the bush and the next day we carried on walking. Thankfully we didn’t see any soldiers, although we did meet some people who advised us to head for a neighbouring country, Zambia, where they said we’d be safe.
"We walked every day for a month and slept in the forest every night until we reached Zambia. It was really hard sleeping out in the open air and we were sad because we were living like dogs.
"Eventually we made it to a refugee camp in Zambia. I had been thinking about my mum and dad the whole way there, but when I arrived in the camp I realised it was going to be a long time before I saw them again.
"Once I’d accepted this I decided to join a school where I studied for three years. When we first arrived in the camp we lived in tents, but after a while we built mud houses. Life in the camp was very good, we had free food, notebooks, education and clothing and didn’t have to worry about anything.
"When I turned 16 I decided to leave Zambia because I was so desperate to see my parents. I walked back to Angola with my uncle, it took us 18 days. I made my way to a village called Emmanuel 1 because that was the last place I’d seen Mum and Dad.
"I was so happy when some of the villagers told me they were still alive because so many people have been killed in the war, but I was disappointed to find out they’d already moved on. I’d only missed them by a few months. I didn’t have any money to keep travelling and looking for them so I decided to stay and finish another grade at school.
"Although I haven’t had any contact with my parents for the last five years, I wrote them a letter recently and gave it to a guy who was travelling to a town I’d heard they were in. I told them that I miss them very much and that I love them.
"My life is settled at the moment, but it’s hard living like an orphan. When I was with my family I never had to do anything by myself. It’s difficult paying for my school fees, buying notebooks, pens and shoes, but I pound cornmeal one morning a week and make 1000 kwanzas (£6.40) which helps.
"I used to cry myself to sleep because it was so hard getting used to life without my parents. Sometimes I dream that we finally get to see each other and they’re laughing and I’m crying because I’ve missed them so much. I’m always really sad when I wake up from a dream like that because it feels like it was real.
"I’m living with my friend Beatrice now, it’s good that we’re together because it gives me a break from thinking about my parents.
"Hopefully I’ll get to meet Mum and Dad by the end of the year. I’m saving up the money to pay for the transport to get to the town they’re in. Who knows what they’ll think of me when we meet up. I’ve changed quite a bit since I was 13!"
IECA works on both sides of the river Koubia. All of the villages the project is working with have been running in 3 phases. Now the project is planning to work with some more villages in the area.
IECA - the Angolan Congregational Church
One of the Christian Aid partners in the country is the Angolan Congregational Church, IECA.
When families first returnd to the area IECA provided them with a starter pack which contained a bucket, machete, blanket, sythe and a file to sharpen the machete.
IECA also gave out seeds of maize, beans and vegetables helped people plan how to rebuild new villages from nothing.
The church is now entering a new phase of training and development, building trade skills among newly returned refugees. This includes courses in carpentry, midwifery and other skills.