Today is International Day of the African Child. Sweet!
It’s an important day to commemorate the bravery of students who took to the streets in peaceful protest in Soweto, South Africa over the quality of their education and the injustice of apartheid. Their courage was costly as hundreds of students were massacred, June 16, 1976. But their legacy remains. The African Union has created this special day to remember – and to act – to improve life for all children in Africa. Some of the most vulnerable are those growing up as orphans and living on the streets. This year the International Day of the African Child brings urgent attention to the plight of street children, estimated to be over 30 million across Africa. Learn more
A recent film, Maibobo, poignantly presents life as a street child. It was created by a young Rwandan filmmaker, Yves Montand, who has a passion for using film to highlight pressing social issues. He and some of the other emerging talent at Almond Tree Films Rwanda have worked as volunteers with youth from our peace camp to create their own short film about the life of an orphan. We’re just days away from the release of Tears of Hope, the rough cut!
Photo credit: Anthony Munyaneza, one of the gafotozi, who participated in our first photography workshop in Rwanda. The photo was taken as part of his essay on village life. Last November, he was one of the participants in the peace camp and one of our official photographers. After camp, he went on to form a peace club in his community. He was recently featured in mosaic.
Peace and joy this Christmas, from Rwanda…
Pictured: Almond Tree Films, Rwanda, with Michel Nsengi (second from left, back row), one of our peace camp faciliators and our new volunteer consultant in Rwanda.
We were honoured to have some of these young filmmakers (Yves Montand, Musafili Kayambi, Clementime Dusabejambo, Jean Bosco Nshimiyimana and Richard Mugwaneza) at camp and have them talk about their passion for making social change through film. One of their most recent films, Maibobo, by Yves, powerfully portrays the life of street children, a very real, but often unpopular, issue in Rwanda.
We were able to show this film at camp and youth were very moved by the issue. Noted one youth in a survey on the first day of camp (before seeing the film): “people who dress poorly [those living on the street] are normally a thief or a crazy person.”
By the end of the camp, the same question got a different answer: “I realize that this person [poorly dressed] is the way he is and you can approach him and try to understand what he’s going through and maybe you can discover that he is traumatized or has other problems hurting him.”
Youth also strongly identified with Bamporiki’s film, Long Coat, which presents some of the issues faced in reconciliation today in Rwanda, as family and friends of both survivor and killer share the hillsides, attempt to live side by side.
During peace camp, filmmakers helped youth with scriptwriting and had them do a “creative pitch” to share their script with the group. A big surprise came when it was announced that one of their scripts will be made into a short film! We hope to have this film completed early in the new year. It deals with the crucial issue of orphans, more specifically, the kinds of mistreatment they suffer in homes/families that take them in.
See more of our photos from peace camp now on flickr.
A little bit of “glee” in Rwanda! Just uploaded: watch clips of youth performing their poems and songs including the popular amahoro song created at camp.
May you too have abundant peace and joy in your heart as we celebrate the birth of the one called the prince of peace!
An inspiring Mother’s Day story from the streets of Kigali and Canada
Every Saturday, a group of street kids meet at a church near the open market where they live. They call themselves Amizero (“hope” in kinyarwanda). They lift their spirits and their hearts to God, earnestly praying for change. Many like Alexi (pictured) have lived most of their life alone on the street. When he was 7 years old, he travelled a long distance on his own, to get to the capital city of Kigail. He became caught up in the vicious cycle of stealing to earn a living and using drugs and alcohol to dull the pain and heartache.
“What gives you hope today?” we asked Alexi, during our visit to his house, a makeshift lean-to he built himself in an alleyway of the market.
“I have peace when I come here [to Amizero]; no one will beat me or put me in jail,” he answers with a smile. He counsels other kids living on the streets: ”You have to have some hope that God will provide.” And he has brought several of his friends, like Pelagie, to Amizero.
Pelagie’s early years are hazy. She doesn’t remember her parents. When she was 11 years old, she fled to Kigali after her mother (a woman who had taken her in) chased her away. “I walked to town…It took a whole week…I didn’t know anyone.”
Alone on the streets, she started to sell her body, often to other street kids, to earn money. “I made between $2 to $10 a day, depending on the market,” she quietly shares. Today she does small, odd jobs like sweeping and cleaning to earn money, but it pays even less.
“Do you have any hope today?” we asked her.
“Yes, I have hope…that God will keep me and provide.”
Alexi too is attempting to earn money in a new way. He gathers coal and does any other small jobs that he can find. “I don’t steal anymore, but make a lot less…about $1-2 a day.” He hopes to go to school one day, to take training in plumbing or carpentry.
Meet Mama Amizero, Epa (Epaphrodite) Nzungize, a young woman who decided to do something about the plight of street youth like Alexi and Pelagie. Though she herself struggles with poverty, including going without meals to put herself through school, she has a burden to help neglected and vulnerable kids living on the streets. ”I was one of the first to join her group,” says Alexi. “Sometimes I go to her place for food. She is like my mom now.”
During their Saturday meetings, Amizero are learning traditional dance, poetry and drama. Pelagie loves to dance. She hopes to go to school and learn sewing. All of the youth at Amizero look forward to using their new skills to earn a living, with more dignity.
We believe that all youth in Rwanda have an important role and contribution to make to society and building peace.
Amizero will be just one of many talented youth groups to partipate in the peace camp. In addition to raising funds for the camp, we have offered to help raise a small loan of $1,200 to help start their dance troupe. Money earned from their performances will go into a group savings account to help meet their most immediate needs like food and shelter. Once the loan is repaid, that money in turn will support another one of our youth peace media initiatives in Rwanda, the AEBR Youth Peace Studio.
Contact us for more info about these projects at firstname.lastname@example.org.
And from the streets of Canada….thanks, mom!
Amizero also have mamas in Canada, like Kathy Cheveldayoff (pictured), who care about them. Together with her husband Laurence, she is helping to raise funds for a peace of life, which includes projects like Amizero and the peace camp.
This past week, a peace of life held our first long distance fundraiser, compliments of skype. We thank “mama and papa” Chevy for all your effort and encouragement. We also thank the Women’s Association of First Baptist, Victoria for your time, interest and generous donations. You truly are mamas for peace!
Here’s an excerpt from their note of thanks:
“What a delightful afternoon…That was so cool
and worked so well. The ladies of the mission group were so touched by your story about the needs in Rwanda and the photos captured the heart…We will all be praying for you daily and for the families who have been so terribly traumatized in Rwanda. We will be in prayer that God will go before the Peace Camp and that His peace and strength will reign in the lives of these young people…”
Thank you so very much. With love, Nora
On behalf of the Women’s Association of First Baptist Victoria
In closing: A Mother’s Day prayer
“Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. ” (Hebrews 10:23-24; NLT version)
A look ahead…
We’re hoping to hold a youth peace camp over school break, the end of November.
It will be near a significant site - a school at Nyange where students refused to separate. 13 were killed. More details to be posted shortly.
Email us at email@example.com if you’re interested in helping with fundraising or becoming one of our partners in peace. We’re looking for schools, camps and church groups interested in having a unique partnership with a school in Rwanda.
Pictured: Some of the members of Amizero (Hope), a street kids ministry in Kigali started by one young woman, Epaprodite Nzunpize. They are learning traditional dance, drama and poetry and hope to be able to earn money with their new skills. Look for them to be one of the groups to perform at the camp!
Home Alone – in Rwanda. This photo was taken by Laura, a friend who has been working on a unique project among orphans.
An alarmingly high number of children are living on the streets and in child/youth-headed households in Rwanda. It’s estimated that at least 20% (some propose as high as 30%) of all of the children in Rwanda are orphans. These courageous children and youth have a story to share. Next month we will be visiting with some of them and helping them to share a little of what their life is like through photography and art and dance. We hope this will help focus more attention on this crucial issue as well as help launch the next phase in our great lakes africa youth media intiative – a youth peace camp now scheduled for 2010.