Where Exile Began
On a group trip to Congo in June 2008 with ALARM, Exile International founder and psychologist, Bethany Haley, encountered a level of heartache she had never seen before: Child soldiers asked her to be their mother. She counseled women who had their children stolen from their arms by rebels when attempting to run to safety. She met women and girls who were raped and tortured – used as a weapon of war. Children so traumatized they showed no emotion because of the realities of war they had witnessed, and heard stories of boys and girls who were abducted by rebels and forced to murder their parents.
A day of visiting several displacement camps in one day led to the realization that people were not only living in geographic exile, but in emotional exile as well. When the heart encounters such darkness or pain, the heart wants to look away in order to protect itself. But because Bethany refused to look away and had gone through her own painful journey of depression and trauma, she was determined to look the darkness in the eye – a passion was stirred and a vision was born.
That's how Bethany left Congo. Not knowing what part she could play or how she would play it, God seated her next to a three-year-old autistic Kenyan boy on the plane ride home. After two weeks of trying to wrap her brain around everything she had witnessed, this little boy profoundly summed it up. In a few seconds, with a few words, he made sense out of her restless thoughts. As they started out the window together at the magnificent clouds, he began to repeat something over and over: "It is bigger than we are...It is bigger than we are...It is...It is...bigger than we are." What her eyes had just seen was big, but not bigger than us all working together, and certainly not bigger than a great God.
At that moment, the seeds for Exile International were sown. Thinking this organization may be a small umbrella to provide trauma care workshops to a few communities, Exile International now has active programs led by local counselors in Uganda and DR Congo – helping provide regular trauma care and holistic healing to over 1000 former child soldiers, young girls who have been victims of gender-based violence and war-affected children.
From speaking in Washington D.C. to The Hague and across the country, Exile International is actively involved in national and international advocacy work – telling the children’s stories of survival, sharing their drawings of hope and heartache and foster lasting change by inviting the the world to stand up and empower these survivors through Exile International’s trauma healing, peace-building, and leadership programs.
Restoring former child soldiers and war-affected children to become leaders for peace through art therapy and rehabilitative care programs in Uganda and DR Congo.
more than that
Our mission does not stop at rehabilitation – our programs are empowering and equipping children of war to become leaders for peace in their communities through a three program model focusing on (1) trauma care (2) peace-building/conflict resolution skills and (3) leadership development. Our focus is holistic care: providing food, clothing, education, counseling, leadership development and discipleship.