Anna is one of five daughters who grew up in a region that, until recently, was the largest producer of heroin in the world. One out of every two children was forced into drug-funded rebel armies. Anna became one of those children at 11 years old.
When Anna finished sixth grade, she was sent to an army camp where she thought she would study medicine. But she was never taught anything medical, not even how to read a thermometer. Instead, she and her sister were chosen to be part of the dance troupe.
At first, Anna was happy to be part of the dance troupe. But soon she was exposed to dark and ugly reality of life in a rebel army.
The dancers travelled long distances to perform, and despite their exhaustion, were forced to dance all night long. During the day, they built roads or labored in the fields, planting rice, corn, yellow beans, and trees. It was the work of adults forced upon children. At times, they were not allowed to leave the field and spent the night sleeping outside.
With all the hard work, Anna found herself getting sick quite often, at least once a month. Her memories of that time are of hunger, fear, and exhaustion.
Drugs and alcohol were prevalent in the army camp, even among the children. The leaders were often drunk, and would call for the children in the middle of the night to shoot at them or make them work.
Once a week, the whole camp would gather for a meeting where the leaders would criticize the children, spit at them, and verbally abuse them.
After four years of being at the army camp, Anna decided to run away. She was done with being yelled at every day, living in fear, and being constantly exhausted and hungry. One day, Anna and a friend pretended to get sick and told the leaders they could not work. They hid in a car and crossed into a small city on the border of another country.
In the city, Anna and her friend found jobs at a local restaurant. But one day, two business men treated Anna and her friend to dinner and bought them gifts. They then lured the girls to a hotel and raped them.
Because of the gifts, the girls felt indebted to the men and continued to see them. Anna and her friend were only 15 years old.
Anna was constantly terrorized by the army’s threats that they would enlist her father or younger sister if she did not return. Her parents would warn her when the army was looking for her and she would go into hiding for days.
The army finally caught up to Anna. She was arrested and forced into a car to return to the army camp. She overheard the driver calling the camp and they said they were preparing a thick rod to beat her with.
When the driver stopped to run an errand, Anna saw her opportunity, jumped out of the car and ran as fast as she could.
She escaped to a nearby town and found work in a casino
One of INfire’s local leaders intervened and connected her to our programs. Plugging in to a local church also allowed her to develop a healthy network of friends who were key in her healing process.
Today she is happily married to a shy and honest man. Because he is not an army man, and Anna’s former army general has died, she no longer lives in constant fear of conscription.
Anna has a heart for her hometown, where there are many orphans as a result of the high drug addiction rate. She lives out her calling by helping these children to find the same healing and love she now has.
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