Here, There and Everywhere

Posts tagged ‘orphan’

Little Amusa

Written by Jenny Clover at the ROP Center for Street Children in Rwanda for ROP Stories.

Photo: Amusa (on right), with his best friend Frank.

Amusa is one of our youngest boys, aged around five we think. Like so many of the boys, we don’t know his real age or when his birthday is. All we know is that his parents are dead and he is on his own. All the rest is guess work based on his size and little snippets he can remember. Although we can’t even trust his memory: when he first arrived he told us that his parents died in the 1994 genocide, a story he probably adopted from older street children he met of whom this was true.

The Director of our Rwandan Orphans Project Centre, Celestin, found Amusa living under a truck in an area of Kigali where long-haul drivers stop to rest. It’s difficult to describe you Amusa’s tiny frame and wide-eyed innocence, but if you can imagine any five year old you might know living under a truck and fending for themselves every day, you will probably realise how unbearable it is to think of little Amusa doing this.

Amusa wasn’t completely alone when we found him, he shared his life on the streets with two close comrades: Frank and Saidi, both aged around six and now also living at the Centre. The three of them have a closeness that you don’t see amongst young children very often, and it can only be because of what they must have been through together. They are fiercely loyal and fight for each other when they feel there has been an injustice. An incident at the Centre which meant Amusa missed lunch and was bought a banana, saw him insist on sharing it with his friends.

Now safely away from the streets and with three regular meals a day guaranteed to him, Amusa seems happy. But he is still a young child and finds it difficult to accept that he has no idea what happened to his parents, except that they are dead. Soon after he joined our Centre, Amusa had a fight with another boy and became hysterical afterward. He kept crying out that he wanted his mum. He knew, as we did, that she is dead but that didn’t stop him wanting her. We will never be able to ease that pain but we can go some way towards helping Amusa have a chance at a successful future.

CONTINUED

An Orphan’s Life

When this story about Franco was first written, the orphanage was called El Shaddai. It has since changed it’s name to the ROP Center for Street Children and moved to the other side of Kigali.

If it isn’t difficult enough to be a teenager, try growing up in a country that just over 16 years ago experienced one of the worst genocides in African history and combine that with having both of your parents die from AIDS when you are only 15 years of age. That’s the life into which Franco Gakwaya was born, but it is not the end of the story.

Rwanda is in East Africa, adjacent to Lake Kivu and bordered by the countries of the Congo, Uganda, Burundi and Tanzania. It is a land-locked nation, known as the “land of a thousand hills” for its rolling iron-rich red landscape, fertile fields and volcanic mountains. Some of the rarest species of mountain gorillas live within its northern borders and chimpanzees are protected in national parks in the east.

Even though Rwanda is now a bustling and successful country that is providing health care, education, jobs and economic growth to it citizens, most people only know about the 1994 genocide, in which a million people were killed by their neighbors over a 30-day period. It was horrible and still affects every single Rwandan.

The AIDS pandemic has also touched Rwanda. As a result, there are thousands upon thousands of orphaned and vulnerable children. In the last twelve years, many of these children have been placed in foster homes, orphanages or boarding schools, but far too many still roam the roads and live on the streets. Franco is one of those who found a new place to call home, an orphanage called ROP Center for Street Children. ROP is located in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, the most densely populated country per square mile in all of Africa.

“We sleep four to a bunk for the older boys,” says Franco, “and six for the younger smaller kids.” MORE

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