Fighting for their youth

After having been forced to fight in their country’s ongoing conflict, former child soldiers in Congo struggle to reclaim their lives.

Former child soldiers - some of them who fought on opposing sides of the conflict in Congo - attend lessons in a makeshift classroom. Children who live at this UNICEF-sponsored boarding school get one hour of lessons each day in subjects ranging from grammar, science, math and art. Antoine Sanfuentes / NBC News
A boy in his bunk at a UNICEF dormitory for former child soldiers, where children from opposing sides of the conflict in Congo cohabitate. Antoine Sanfuentes / NBC News
A mural on the wall of the UNICEF-sponsored school for former soldiers in Goma, Congo. The walls are lined with murals as reminders of what is right and wrong - in this case, their youth being forced to an abrupt end in the service of war. Antoine Sanfuentes / NBC News
Former child soldiers attend lessons in a makeshift classroom. Antoine Sanfuentes / NBC News
NBC News anchor Ann Curry and producer Justin Balding (seated, left) interview Pascal Kahombo via a translator (middle). Pascal was forced into fighting for the Congo military. Programs like this one in Goma one are often their last hope to reclaim a normal life. Antoine Sanfuentes / NBC News
Two boys, former soldiers who at one time fought on opposing side of the conflict in Congo, now stand side-by-side. Despite having fought against - and in some cases even killed - each others' friends, the boys are now best friends. Antoine Sanfuentes / NBC News
Gabriel Gakara, 16, and Pascal Kahombo, 17, stand at their U.N.-sponsored transition center which rehabilitates former child soldiers. The boys undergo a three-month program in which they are treated for post-traumatic stress and stripped of loyalty to their former units. Antoine Sanfuentes / NBC News
The program at the U.N.-sponsored center teaches the children to interact with each other away from a military environment. The children are taught to express some of their experiences in art classes as a form of therapy. Antoine Sanfuentes / NBC News
Some of the children still carry the physical scars of war but counselors who treat the children say it is the psychological damage that takes so long to heal. Once the children are released from the center, many face an uncertain future and in some areas of eastern Congo, more than 50 percent are taken back into armed groups. Antoine Sanfuentes / NBC News