Orphans & Vulnerable Children
Spotlight: “Street Kids” in the DRC
The Democratic Republic of Congo is situated in Central Africa and has a population of approximately 69 million, about 47% of whom (32 million) are under the age of 14. Problems with the economy, poor governance and armed conflict has led to a deterioration of living conditions in the DRC. The civil war which began in 1994 and subsequent armed conflict still on-going in the eastern region of the country have destabilized the entire country, crippling its economy. More than half of the population in the capital city of Kinshasa live below the poverty line. Thousands of children live or work on the streets of Kinshasa with limited access to education or employment and are at significant risk of sexual and physical abuse and disease, including HIV.
Africare-DRC works through its Community-Based support for Vulnerable Children (CSVC) Project to reduce the number of children living on the streets of Kinshasa through improved community health and education services. The program, launched in 2005, addresses the causes of child abandonment and family vulnerability, as well as provides resources and training to children who are already living on the street. Funded by the World of Hope Foundation, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Mairie de Paris, the program aims to build these children's education and skills so that they themselves may choose an alternative to street life. Africare also raises community awareness of child rights to strengthen the social safety net and prevent abandonment. Read their stories>>
To date, Africare has reached over 10,000 beneficiaries and continues to build the capacity of local partners for sustainable assistance to all vulnerable children, including those living on the street.
Magloire Mambou was only 11 years old when his parents accused him of practicing witchcraft and threw him out on the streets. It was after 6 months of living on the streets that the Simba NGai local NGO took him in and provided him with food, shelter, spiritual guidance, and technical training in carpentry. As soon as Magloire completed his training, the center enrolled him at one of its 6 community based satellite centers initiated with Africare's capacity building and technical support, where he acquired advanced skills in carpentry. At the center Magloire earned money that he used to cover his personal needs. The center was so impressed by his intelligence and ability to learn quickly that they enrolled him at a local high school. If he does well, Magloire will earn his high school diploma in 4 years. His dream is to go on to college and to someday be one of Congo’s greatest leaders.
Néné MPUTU is 23 years old. She was born in Lubumbashi in southern DRC. Although her grandfather was a high-ranking government official, her parents separated when she was young and she lived with her father until 2003 when her mother called her to come to Kinshasa. Her mother had been diagnosed with AIDs and later died in her arms. No longer receiving support from either side of her family, Néné was alone and struggled to support herself; she eventually resorted to prostitution to survive. One of her clients eventually took her in and she gave birth to a son, Mardoché, but the father later abandoned them both. Néné desperately wanted to avoid a return to prostitution and sought help at Africare’s local partner Christ Secours de Faible. There she completed seamstress training and was also selected to be part of a group receiving a micro-grant from Africare-DRC for a workshop start-up. Together the women have established the “New Fashion” sewing workshop in Bumbu Commune of Kinshasa. Although Néné still struggles to make ends meet for herself and her son, she credits Africare’s support with changing her life and has never since returned to prostitution.
Noëlla TSHIBANDA is a current student and the fourth of eight children. Her father died several years ago and her mother is struggling to support the family alone. Although she graduated from middle school, her mother is unable to fund further secondary education. Noella herself dreamed of being a seamstress like her mother and has been accepted for extended training at Lycée Omisalisa, which has waived her tuition fees. She is now able to practice her sewing on machines that Africare-DRC donated to the center. She is the top student in her class and would like to become a sewing teacher after graduating.
Joseph LUMBALA is President of Enfants du Monde’s (EDM, Meaning “Children of the World” in French). During discussion he cited death of a parent, divorce, polygamy, and accusations of witchcraft as the primary reasons for child abandonment. EDM usually finds abandoned children in a nearby market doing menial labor to survive. EDM shelters abandoned children, provides counseling, and attempts to negotiate reunification with families. Some quotes from Joseph about Africare-DRC and EDM’s methodology:
“If parents accept to take their child back into the family, we provide education…step by step the child is reintegrated into the family, leaving street life behind.”
“Africare is one of the rare international NGOs that has continued to directly support education and training for street children. Africare has provided notebooks, school desks, sewing machines—this aid and its impact are visible!”
Jonathan MUANDA-BALUME is 12 years old and is from Kinshasa. Jonathan’s father left home on a trip when Jonathan was two years old. When his father didn’t return for many months, his mother also left to look for his father. Neither parent ever returned to care for Jonathan, who was taken in by some neighbors. He was unfortunately mistreated by the family who sheltered him, so he fled to the streets at the age of five and spent the following four years begging to survive until he met an EDM social worker. He is now completing his final year of primary education and will also receive support to take the TENAFEP exam. Jonathan would like to continue studying to become a medical doctor.
Jean-Claude MUNGEDI is 11 years old and recently arrived at EDM four days ago. His father died last year and his mother has since remarried. Unfortunately Jean-Claude’s mother abandoned him when the family moved to a new neighborhood, taking only his two sisters with her. Since his family left him behind, Jean-Claude had been staying in a church and begging on the streets for food and money. He has not begun studying at EDM yet because he arrived so recently, but he dreams of becoming a businessman. EDM will provide Jean-Claude with counseling and work, step by step, to obtain family contact information in view of seeking reunification.
Luta MWANZA's family lived in extreme poverty and often couldn’t provide her with even enough food to eat. She left home at the age of 11 in 2004 to live on the streets of Kinshasa. Life in the streets was harsh: Luta had to beg for food and work in a small restaurant for scraps. She was also constantly in danger, sometimes beaten and raped by older street boys. After two years as a street child, Luta was sheltered by EDM and began primary studies. EDM also provided counseling and contacted Luta’s family to discuss reunification. Today Luta is 16 years old and is once again living at home with her family while continuing to receive educational support from Africare through EDM. Thanks to this assistance she will take the TENAFEP exam in order to continue on to secondary studies and would one day like to become a businesswoman.
Hidris TAMBWA, Josué ILUNGA, and Audry MBIKAYI are all orginally from the Kasai Provinces of central DRC. All three were orphaned when one or both of their parents died of AIDs; because their parents died from the disease, these children were shunned by remaining family and neighbors who accused them of witchcraft. Rejected by their communities, the three boys eventually met while living on the streets of Kananga, in Kasai Occidental Province. About three years ago they embarked on an incredible journey together, travelling over 500 miles alone by truck, train, and boat down the Congo River to arrive in Kinshasa to look for a friend of one boy’s father. Unfortunately they were never able to locate this friend and were again forced to live on the streets in Kimbanseke Commune. The boys were found by an EDM social worker and came to live and study at EDM about two years ago. All three children are receiving assistance from Africare through EDM for their studies and to take the primary education certification test. Individual profiles:
>>Hidris TAMBWA is now 11 years old and was born in Mbuji-Mayi, Kasai Oriental Province. After Hidris’ mother died, his father abandoned him. After arriving in Kinshasa he spent three months begging for food and money on the streets and sleeping in abandoned cars. He’s now studying at EDM and hopes to one day become a mechanic.
>>Josué ILUNGA is now 9 years old and was also born in Kasai Oriental Province. He also would like to become a mechanic after he finishes his studies.
>>Audry MBIYAKI is now 7 years old and we are not sure exactly where in Kasai he is from because he was abandoned at such a young age. He was malnourished when he first met an EDM social worker who found him doing menial labor in a nearby local market. Street children who are malnourished and in bad health are often though by the Congolese to be witches, and thus even when EDM brought Audry before local government authorities, they refused to help and grant him shelter authorization. Audry would like to become a bread baker after completing his studies.
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(Updated, June 12, 2009)