At this time what Aime really needs is charity, someone to help see her through these darkest days. We have listed her with the project so there may be help in the future but she needs direct support now.”

We met Aime in October 2019, two months after her husband had been killed in an ambush whilst patrolling the park. He was a ranger for Kahuzi Biega National Park to the south of Goma in the Kivu region of DRC.

Aime was around 24 years of age with two young children and three months pregnant with her third. She was living in a small village near where her husband was posted. Her family and relations live 400-500 miles away. She moved to the park with her husband when he was posted there and had no local family or support network.

She was introduced to us by the head of the local national park when we visited them to learn from the rangers about the risks they face protecting the park and wildlife. Aime was quiet and dignified when she spoke to us but her despair and grief shrouded her. She shed no tears but her extreme vulnerability and aloneness in the world was palatable.

Our charity didn’t have the means to provide emergency relief immediately and all we could do on our return to the UK was inquire after her hoping one of the local churches might help. We received notice in January that she was still alone and without aid. We sought emergency funding for her from UK based organisations but the replies came back as sympathetic but unwilling to donate.

Then the corona virus hit and with the travel lock down we were unable to get news of her. At her most vulnerable time, with the baby due at the end of March, we didn’t know if she was safe and well, we didn’t know if her baby had been delivered safely into this world. We were deeply concerned for her welfare, alone in the world at such a time. 

Culturally in DRC, women who have been widowed like Aime do not usually remarry, so Aime’s loss is likely to be permanent left to face a life without a partner to share the challenges or the joy of life with and three children very young to raise.

Aime’s story is sadly not unique, their husbands have given their lives protecting one of the world’s most unique, eco-diverse and endangered areas of natural beauty and richness remaining in the world yet their families are left unprotected and unsupported when they die.

As I write this, we are trying to raise funds to help Aime when we can reach her again. If she survives we will try to help her join a group of other widows, enabling them to self-organize, provide access to training and build new livelihoods and new lives for themselves. In honour of the memory and the sacrifice their husbands and to help the families left behind, please donate.

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