Rwanda

Rwanda: Street children find education, shelter and hope

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Salesian Center in Rango provides education, shelter and hope for street children

(MissionNewswire) Salesian programs in Rwanda are working to help at-risk youth who are often living on the streets. UNICEF estimates that there are about 7,000 street children in the country while close to 300,000 live in families where a minor is the head of the household. The economic challenges brought about by the pandemic have exacerbated many of these issues.

“To get youth out of this hopeless life, the first thing they need is to be shown kindness, have something to eat and go back to school,” explained Salesian Brother Hubert Twagirayezu, economer of the St. Charles Lwanga Vice Province of Africa Great Lakes, which includes Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi. “In Rwanda, we carry out our mission among poor children and young people. In Rango, in the district of Huye, we help more than 120 street children, but at the national level there are many more.”

Street children face a life that is marked by uncertainty and a lack of education, food, protection and health care access. These children have no understanding of their rights and often fall prey to those who wish to do them harm. Street children have few prospects in life because they are not in school gaining an education and are on the streets begging or taking odd jobs to have enough food to eat. Most suffer from malnutrition and other diseases such as dysentery, malaria and scabies.

On the street, youth also suffer from lack of sleep. They rest for only a few hours a day, sleeping on cardboard with one eye open in fear that someone will steal the few things they have. Many risk taking drugs to forget their problems.

Bro. Twagirayezu explained, “In 2016, a project was launched for street children at the St. John Bosco Parish in Rango. Our goal is to impact different aspects of the person, including taking better care of themselves and encouraging the suspension of drug use. Children are treated, they learn hygiene again and they play sports.”

He added, “From a psychological point of view, we try to listen to these children, to help them to recover slowly from the trauma, and to regain confidence in themselves and in others. We want children to be happy, to continue studying and learning to read, but also to play. They receive new clothes and uniforms, and regain respect for adults and other children. The children can participate in the prayer activity of the Salesian center, while respecting the sensitivity and history of each other since the center welcomes children of all faiths. We need donations to keep programs running and be able to help these children and bring awareness to their plight.”

After bravely overcoming the trauma of the 1994 genocide, Rwandans looking to transform their country have made remarkable progress. Still, much remains to be done. Close to 39 percent of Rwandans live in poverty, according to the World Bank. Rwanda is a rural, agrarian country with about 35 percent of the population engaged in subsistence agriculture with some mineral and agro-processing. Many of the country’s orphaned children are the tragic result of a violent civil war. Half of all children drop out of primary school and 2.2 million people—22 percent of the population—face critical food shortages.