It’s hard to be a mother in Congo. If you have a daughter, you live with a constant threat that she may be raped. If you have a son, you worry that he may be kidnapped by the army or one of the militias and turned into a child soldier. All mothers everywhere worry about being able to feed their children or having the ability to send them to school but mothers here have worries we can not even comprehend. I have written a great deal about the sexual violence that girls and women endure and while it is unforgivable and inexcusable, the other day I was forced to recognize that sometimes the perpetrator can be a victim too. On Wednesday, we visited a transit program for child soldiers who had recently been rescued from the army or militia and we listened and watched as these boys tried to find the lives that had been snatched from them. There were 112 boys living in the center. The youngest was 10 years old and had been captured at age 8. We were asked not to ask too many questions about the specifics of their situations for their protection but from what we know about child soldiers, we had to assume that most of the boys had killed or perhaps even raped. Looking at some of their faces, it was unfathomable to think that they could do such cold and brutal acts but we knew it could vey well have been true. And yet, here at the center, they were boys — children —with many of the same desires as our children. One boy had a band. He told me his stage name was Master Black, and he wanted to be a rock star. I told him that my son had a band and wanted to be a rock star also, and we laughed together. Another boy had loftier ideas and wanted to be the ambassador to the United States one day. They liked sports and one boy said he wanted a tv — pretty much like kids everywhere. But these kids are not like kids everywhere. They have been stolen away from their families — their childhoods ripped apart. The center keeps these boys for 3 months after they have been rescued from the army. They are given some basic counseling, medical care, literacy and skills classes. The staff at the center tries to help them reintegrate into society while they try to locate their families. If their families can not be found or their parents are dead, the program finds them a safe place to live. Without this program, I shudder to think who they might become. As I listened to the boys, I thought a great deal about my son, Sam, who is 19 years old. I thought about all the years we have had together and all the wonderful times we have shared — the conversations, laughs, hugs, and I tried to imagine the devastation I would have felt if he had suddenly been snatched away from me while walking home from school. In our country, we have amber alerts when a child is missing. In Congo, there are no amber alerts, just devastation. It’s very hard being a mother in Congo.