Below are some inspiring stories written by a few of the boys describing their transformative journey.
Many of the boys have full time jobs, as waiters, chefs, welders, plumbers, and hairdressers. Some are working in offices as managers and supervisors, others are teaching in schools. One of the boys has even come back to work at our centre as a social worker.
“On the street I learnt about life, when I got sick no one was there to treat me or help me find medicine, I had no food, no clothes, no education, the life there was very dangerous”
When I was 7 years old in 1997, I was separated from my family because of the war that was taking a place in one of Rwanda province (Western province) at Rubavu district and I decided to leave my village to Kigali in search of a better life. I became a street child because I lost my parents, brothers and sisters. On the street I learnt about life, when I got sick no one was there to treat me or help me find medicine, I had no food, no clothes, no education, the life there was very dangerous.
In June 2002, we met one social worker from EDD and he invited us to leave the streets and come to the center. I was not sure whether to trust him as we had learned to become suspicious on the streets, but finally I decided, along with eight other boys to go to the center. When I arrived at EDD everything changed for the better! They helped me to study, provided me food, clothes, basic needs, and shelter. I lived in EDD for four years, and I was reintegrated in December 2006. EDD helped to find my family. I was reconciled with my mum, my young sister and my two elders brothers. Unfortunately, my father died during the war of 1997. After being reintegrated, EDD continued to support me by paying for my school fees, visiting me regularly at home and following up on my studies.
Today, I am a social worker at EDD as well as a University student at IPRC - KIGALI, in Civil Engineering in department of Engineering Survey and Geomantic in Year three (3) and I will finish my studies this June (2016) I have achieved many things, I work and get profit
from what I am doing, I am giving back to my younger brothers who are being helped by Les Enfants de Dieu now, and I hope to achieve an even better future.
“Two years later. I decided to go to the street to beg the passengers of buses where I started to take drugs such us weed, petroleum, strong beer, cigarettes etc”.
My life was difficult because I lost my mother in the 1994 genocide when I was only 3 years old. At that time my family was so poor, they were unable to feed us and to pay for our education. I had five brothers and our father decided to remarry another woman in
order to help him to raise us. Living with my stepmother brought me a lot of challenges. When I was 7 years old my father did not allow me go to school to start primary school. Two years later. I decided to go to the street to beg the passengers of buses where I started to take drugs such us weed, petroleum, strong beer, cigarettes etc. On the streets, I was sleeping in the cold, under the bridges, eating leftovers from dustbins. I was misbehaved since I was not educated. I used to rob people, steal women’s bags and pickpocket men’s wallets.
At the end, with the help of Les Enfants de Dieu, I was saved! The Manager of the Centre at that time found me on street and invited me to come and start a better life. When I arrived at EDD I got access to education, food, shelter, health care etc. It was hard to believe it at the beginning because my life had completely changed. I finished primary school and graduated at the end of 2008, and I was reintegrated back into my family at the beginning of 2009 but the centre kept paying for my studies. I continued my secondary school then in 2011 after passing O level National Exam, I succeeded with the good score and got oriented by Ministry of Education in Teachers Training College (TTC). There, I studied harder and harder in order to succeed as usual. In 2014, I got a degree that allowed me to be a qualified Teacher of Primary School. Now I am Teacher in MUGANZA Primary school also in Kigali where I am teaching English and SET in Primary 4, 5, 6. I am thankful Les Enfants de Dieu , the staff and board members for changing my life. May God bless EDD and protect them forever!
“I cannot find words to express my gratitude and my feelings towards EDD. I can just say that the centre is a place where street children’s lives are restored and dignified”.
I remember from the age of 5 years old, I realized that my dad was doing nothing else other than drinking alcohol. We had to move house regularly because my dad was irresponsible and did not pay the rent. My mother had to struggle with a small business of selling bananas to help us survive. It was not unusual for us to spend a day without any meal and a night a poor meal that could not make us full. Due to poverty, I could not start school at 7 years old as it happened for other children in good conditions. Fortunately, my mom did her best so that I was able to start at age of 9. Studying on an empty stomach was something hard for me. I was not very interested in school as result and sometimes could not attend. As a result, I had poor marks and had to retake the first year. In the 2nd year, I had a car accident and completely lost interest in school. I decided to drop out of school and leave the family for the street. There, life was something else. I had to find money to pay for movies, drugs and sex. So I had to rob people. I cannot recall how many times I was arrested and taken to jail. My peers and the police, nobody could feel pity for me, they hit me as if I was a venomous snake to kill. However, food was not a problem as I was eating leftovers from restaurants or thrown in garbage bins. It occurred to me sometimes that dying would be better than living. I spent three years in that life.
It was in 2002 that someone approached me and spoke to me about the life at Les Enfants de Dieu. I was extremely happy to leave the street and I didn’t hesitate to go with him. Arriving there, life became much more complicated and kind of a burden: no smoking, no drugs, nobody does whatever he wants, so this was a jail to me! Two weeks later, I escaped and ran away to rejoin my trash bins and rejoice for a freedom. It took three months for me to realize that I had made the wrong decision. I returned to the centre where they happily took me back. The centre took me to school in second primary. I was ever motivated. I had school materials, I was having three meals a day, I was loved by my care takers and educators and had no reason to fail or perform poorly at school. I finished first of my class. I graduated from high school and right now I am pursuing a degree in electrical engineering at the National Technical Institute of Kigali. I am really thankful and recognise the hard work done by EDD to transform my life. I know how my rehabilitation was very hard due to my addiction to drugs. I cannot find words to express my gratitude and my feelings towards EDD. I can just say that the centre is a place where street children’s lives are restored and dignified.
“It is my hope that EDD will continue to be a source of hope for so many boys
living in the same fear and sadness I too once experienced”
My life on the streets began when I was 8 years old. My mother fell into a coma and I had no where to go. I had lost my father and twin brother in the 1994 genocide and my mother’s family was unable to take care of me. I was left alone and the only people who took me in were the boys living on the streets of Kigali.
Life on the streets was hard. I was constantly looking for food to eat, places to sleep, and was always worried about what tomorrow would hold. Some days, in order to eat, I had to steal food or even eat from people’s leftover trash. Often times, I was picked up by the police and thrown into jail where diseases and other illnesses were common. I saw society as a group of people that disregard and forget about children without homes - children like me. We were viewed as outcasts and treated badly. The loneliness I felt during those days turned me into an angry boy with no hope for the future. I found myself asking, “Why me? what did I do to deserve this life?” I would see children with their families and feel the anger begin to rise in my chest as they passed me by - skipping, smiling, and holding hands. I tried to numb the pain by smoking weed and released my anger by fighting other street kids. After almost 4 years of struggling to survive, I came to Les Enfants de Dieu in hope of a new life.
Life at EDD was more than I could ever imagine. Here, I found a home. I had food to eat, a clean bed, clean clothes, and even learned to speak English. I received a formal education and met other boys who shared my experience. I went from being a quiet and lonely boy to an energetic, happy young man who was able to discover his talents and skills. I became a leader and found myself guiding other boys and helping the staff at the Center. After almost 5 years at EDD, I was able to reintegrate back into society and began to take care of my mother. Since I left the Center, I have gained a strong sense of self esteem that allowed me to pursue my true passion; a career in radio and film. I have had the honor of sharing my story in front of audiences in Uganda, Tanzania, the UK and the United States. Today, I am truly grateful to EDD and to the people who believed in me during my greatest time of need. It is my hope tha EDD will continue to be a source of hope for so many boys living in the same fear and sadness I too once experienced.