During festive seasons like this one, many people take time off to visit different orphanage homes that are dotted all over Kigali City and elsewhere in the country.
On the eve of this year’s Christmas celebrations, I visited Nkundabana Orphanage Home, in Gaculiro and certainly I was amazed by the brilliant smiles that every child wore.
While clapping their hands and praising God for bringing them yet another group of visitors, the boys sung different hymns of praise and boasted that Jesus Christ had brought them this far.
“All of these are former street children but each one has a different story. Some have lost both parents while others ran away from their homes as a result of extreme poverty. A good number were forced to become street children as a result of mistreatment by step-parents,” Jason Rugero, the Director of Nkundabana Orphanage Home told The New Times.
Today the orphanage that takes care of over 195 children has turned the formerly hopeless street children into hopeful, responsible individuals.
”When we bring them here, we counsel them so that they can drop the bad street habits and act like normal children, there after, we take them back to school because every child has a right to education as this also helps them to become responsible citizens that will build the nation,” Rugero adds.
Twelve-year-old Emmanuel Ndayisenga who is also one of the orphans in the home has a very sad story to tell. Unlike his fellow children who enjoy their rights fully, Ndayisenga does not have any memories of parental care.
‘I do not know my father and my mother passed away at a time when I was still so young. I was therefore forced to become a street kid at the beginning of 2003, so that I could survive. I had no one to take care of me,’ he sadly narrates.
He started roaming about in Cyangugu town looking for food in every single dust- bin that he came across until he decided that he must venture into Kigali City that every other street kid in the area talked about.
”I was determined, so one evening, I walked to Nyamasheke, a place where many Kigali people buy timber. At night I sneaked into a Daihatsu truck that first went to Huye then brought me to Nyabugogo,’ Ndayisenga adds.
Life in the city was even harder because the number of street kids was much higher. He says that, just like most street children, he used to take drugs and smoke various dangerous substances which cost only Rwf100 so that he too, could lose his senses and sleep in the cold.
Everything has however taken a different turn ever since Ndayisenga and others got arrested and taken to Gikondo Children’s’ Home, a centre where all the street children are gathered by police before being dispatched to different orphanages. He is now happy that he has found a new meaning to life.
Ndayisenga is now in primary five and has an ambition of becoming a professional journalist because he believes that once the public is informed about what happens in society, then, a solution can easily be found.
According to the caretakers at the home, he is also one of the brightest students of Kagugu Primary School in Gaculiro. He is always number one in class.
Other orphans like 15 year-old Jack Dushimimana also attribute their good life and health to Nkundabana Orphanage home which does everything possible to ensure that these children enjoy their rights too.
It is indeed true that children’s rights should be observed because even Article 25 (2) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights stresses that, mothers and children are entitled to special care and assistance. All children whether born in or out of wedlock shall enjoy the same social protection.’
In relation to this need, the organisation offers health insurance, accommodation, clothing, counseling and education among others to the children.
For the aged children, a special programme called ‘catch up’ has been instituted by the Ministry of Education. Most of the beneficiaries of the programmes are children who have not been to school.
Rugero however stresses that, parents should look after their children so that they do not join other street children.
Surveys carried out on the families of street children have found that parents pretend to welcome back their long lost children for fear of being arrested on negligence charges.
According to the studies, in actual sense the parents continue to mistreat the children thus forcing them back to the streets. A lot of effort is however still needed to convince other street children to join the various orphanage homes.
The bottom line however, is that all parents and relatives should help Rwandan children to grow into responsible citizens of the nation.