"When he first came to us, he wasn’t talking. He was about four years old, but we knew nothing else about him. Occasionally, he’d imitate the other children, but he’d express no thoughts of his own. He couldn’t tell us anything about his home, his family, or where he came from. To make matters worse, aid workers had further confused him by suggesting hometowns to him— which he had readily agreed to. So we started with a completely blank slate. We drew a house on a piece of paper, and we said: ‘Is this your home?’ And he said: ‘No! You forgot the gate!’ So we drew a gate. And he said: ‘But you forgot the tree!’ So we drew a tree.
Piece by piece, day by day, we filled in a picture of his home. He was still very reserved and traumatized, so the process took over a month. But we met in the safety of my office every day, and we figured it out. It was like putting together a puzzle. The saddest moment was when we drew his father. ‘You have to draw him laying down,’ the boy said. ‘I tried to get him to come with me, but he wouldn’t.’
When we eventually used the drawings to identify the boy’s hometown and find his mother, she confirmed our fears. The boy had disappeared after seeing his father get shot.”
(Juba, South Sudan)