|© UNICEF Rwanda/2009/ Frejd|
|Onlookers watch street theatre put on by Amahoro Mobile, a UNICEF-supported project started by the National Museum of Rwanda.|
By Hanna Frejd
KIGALI, Rwanda, 10 February 2009 – Ndayi, 16, lives in a small village about an hour from Rwanda’s capital, and before going back to school, he lived on the streets.
“The school for our village was so far away that I decided to quit,” he says. “I decided to make my life on the streets and earn some money, but then the village decided to build a school for us here and the community encouraged our parents to send us. Now I am in fourth grade and I feel like I have a future.”
Half of Rwanda’s population of 9 million is under the age of 18. The number of children living on the streets is currently being determined.
Healing through theatre
Amahoro Mobile is a project started by the National Museum of Rwanda to protect children from life on the streets. The project uses theatre groups to find ways of helping street children and to involve communities in designing solutions through drama and dialogue.
“The estimated number of street children ranges from a few hundred to several thousand,” says UNICEF Child Protection Specialist Maxime Germain. “UNICEF is assisting the government to conduct a study, to better understand numbers and needs. But the good news is that there are already prevention and response mechanisms in place to protect and reintegrate these children.”
The Amahoro Mobile Project is one of these mechanisms. In fact, the UNICEF-supported project helped Ndayi’s village build the school that he now attends.
The results have been impressive – including fewer children on the streets, better homes rebuilt by villagers themselves, the establishment of four different cooperatives, a youth group and a primary school in Ndayi’s village with 520 students enrolled – all created with help from UNICEF.
“To build houses is not enough. What is important is to help people believe in their ability to shape their own futures, to feel that they are a part of the development,” explains Gaima, one of the founders of Amahoro Mobile. “When we came to Ndayi’s village, there weren’t any activities to care for street children, but now the village sees itself as a community working together to advance children’s rights.”
Thacienne, a local government official, is confident that the same model can be used in other communities.
“What the partnership has shown is that communities can work together to spur their own development," says Thacienne. "But what they need is to see the problems and have the means to tackle them. Thanks to UNICEF, their dreams have become a reality.”