From street children to young entrepreneurs

Overcoming difficult conditions with the power of solidarity

By Margaux Mathez-Loic
Harouna, Saido and Pacifique in front of their welding training center.
UNICEF Burundi/2019/Margaux Mathez-Loic
13 January 2020

Harouna, Saido and Pacifique have faced several years of harsh living conditions.  Since they were deprived of parental support, the boys dropped out of school at a young age and had to find their way to survive by taking to the streets to beg.

In April 2019, they were identified by a Giriyuja social worker and oriented to the  Giriyuja’s Drop in Center in Buterere suburb, Bujumbura. With the support of the child protection program, they were placed in a 5 months vocational training with a local craftsman and gained new life-skills as welders.

The three are pursuing their course and upon completion they plan to start their own welding workshop.    

Egide, 18 years old

Egide moved to the capital city at age 14, after dropping out of school because he couldn’t afford to pay for school fees. In Bujumbura, he started working in a rice field during the day and sleeping in the streets at night. Egide heard about Giriyuja and the work they do with youth at-risk and got enrolled in pastry vocational training. At the end of his training, he and one of his friends opened their own shop where they sell pancakes and sambussas (local pastries). Egide and his friend now rent a house and are able to have three meals a day. The boy has been able to invest in his village of origin by buying several pigs and would like to farm as an alternative source of income.

Egide with his sambussas batch for the day.
UNICEF Burundi/2019/Margaux Mathez-Loic
Pheza at her work station
UNICEF Burundi/2019/Margaux Mathez-Loic

Pheza, 17 years old

Pheza has become one of the best tailors in her neighborhood after being trained by Giriyuja drop in center. She is now the one supporting her family. She hopes she will be able to train other youth to learn from her passion.

Diane, 19 years old

Diane has 6 sibilings. After her parents passed away, she had to take care of her entire family. She was then forced to drop out of school and find means to support her family.  Diane learned pastry through a vocational training course run by Fondation Stamm and her life has drastically changed. She is now able to provide for her siblings,  and she also managed to save enough money to start building a new house. 

At the bakery, Diane is about to deliver a new order.
UNICEF Burundi/2019/Margaux Mathez-Loic

When community members support each other for a better future

This Solidarity Group was founded in January 2019 by Faith in Action and has 20 members, 18 women and 2 men. When the group started, most of its members were able to eat once a day only;  half of the families had children begging in the streets, as they were not able to cover their basic needs. After 7 months of activity, including continuous follow-up by the field community trainer from Faith in Action, the members have acquired skills on how to save and loan money. Every member now have their own income-generating activity. They feel proud and empowered because, thanks to the project, they are now actors of change in their community, spreading good parental practices and offering foster care to children that are deprived from parental care. All the members’ children  have their birth certificate and are in school. The group is also supporting 40 of the most vulnerable children from the community with school kits.

Nadège Nizigiyimana, a member of a Solidarity Group from Faith in Action

Nadège, her husband and their five children lost all their belongings when their house was destroyed by a fire. They really struggled to overcome this difficult situation and as a result, their children started to beg in the streets for food. Nadege’s older son didn’t come back for months, she even thought he was dead. Nadege was identified by Faith in Action and joined the Solidarity group. Since she joined, Nadege has managed to multiply her initial capital by ten: she sells avocados and her business is flourishing. Her children are now back home, well fed and in school.

Nadege and her 3 children at home.
UNICEF Burundi/2019/Margaux Mathez-Loic