Here, There and Everywhere

Runaways in Rwanda

Runaways
9 June 2012
by Sean
From ROP Stories

People often ask me what is the most difficult thing about running an orphanage. Well, to be honest there is no lack of challenges and frustrations, but for me the most difficult challenge is dealing with runaways.

You see, the boys we bring in the from streets and from the far off rural areas of Rwanda are usually very young. In the last year and a half we’ve added many new kids between the ages of five to ten years of age. Although life on the streets is hard, these boys become used to being out there on their own, able to do what they want when they want without any sort of authority around to prevent them from doing so. They can eat when they want (if they can scrounge up enough change), wash when they want (which isn’t often, I can tell you) and move around town as they want. Sure, life on the streets can be harsh, but they become accustomed to it and it becomes normal for them.

When we find them on the street and invite them to come to the ROP, promising them education, food, clothes, etc, they jump at the opportunity. Usually they settle in very quickly and all might seem well for a short time, but for some, experiencing rules, structure and discipline – in some cases for the first time in their lives – is not easy for them to handle.

Taking boys who are used to fighting, begging and stealing, and getting them to fit within the ROP family is tough work. If one commits an offense – or “mistake” as we call them – the solution isn’t as simple as punishing them. If you make the punishment too serious – and for a street child any punishment is excessive in their eyes – they’ll wait for their opportunity and run away. If you take away a privilege, they’ll try to run away. If they want you to buy them a radio and you refuse, explaining to them that we can’t buy everyone radios, they’ll threaten to run away or just do it anyway. Sometimes something as simple as wanting some type of food they don’t get at the Center will cause them to try to run away.

To be honest it can be incredibly frustrating. I often wonder how these kids can choose to run back to streets when we’re offering them so much. But then I remind myself that these are young kids. They can’t see past their own noses, let alone far ahead into the future when everything we’ve providing will really mean something to them. They want a sweet roll, a radio, or the freedom to wander around NOW, and if they can’t have it they’ll go back to the street where they can do whatever they want.

Read entire story, with additional photos at ROP Stories.

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