05 Apr Aime
Facing the devastating loss of your husband as a young mother, without support, and far from your family home. What hope is there?
“What Aime really needed was our support, our charity, someone to help see her through the darkest days. We listed her with the project so there may be help in the future but she needed direct support right 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 has 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 terrible.
Our charity didn’t have the means to provide emergency relief immediately and all we could do on our return to the UK was keep in touch and inquire after her, hoping one of the local churches in DRC might help. We received notice in January 2020 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 very young children to raise.
Aime’s story sadly is not unique, her husband is only one of many park rangers who 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.