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Central African Republic

Building a future for street children in the Central African Republic

© UNICEF Central African Republic/2006/Willemot
Victor Yoongo lived on the streets of Bangui for years before joining the UNICEF-supported Voix du Coeur centre.

By Yves Willemot

BANGUI, Central African Republic, 27 June 2006 – “I want children in Bangui to learn from my own experience as a street child,” said 24-year-old Victor Yoongo. 

For years, Mr. Yoongo lived in the streets of Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic. Today, thanks to Voix du Coeur (Voice of the Heart), a local organization supported by UNICEF, he is finishing his final year of secondary school and has been reunited with his family. 

“I want to be a teacher and help children so that they don’t end up in the street like I did,” he said.

Mr. Yoongo began living on the street when he was 14, following the death of his father. The excitement of being free and able to decide where to go to and what to do disappeared quickly as he faced hunger and violence.

When he heard about Voix du Coeur, which helps street children with meals, health care and, if appropriate, mediation with their families, he decided to join the centre.

 “We want children to go back to their families and to start school again,” said the coordinator of Voix du Coeur, Pascal Roda. “But it has to be their decision to do so. We will never force them.”

© UNICEF Central African Republic/2006/Willemot
At the Voix du Coeur centre, street children learn mathematics, French and life skills to prepare for their return to school.

Preparing for the future

There are more than 6,000 street children in the Central African Republic, half of them in Bangui. They live harsh lives in which exploitation and violence are common.

At Voix du Coeur, founded in 1994, street children come to eat meals prepared with help from the World Food Programme. Others come with health problems. Voix du Coeur has a small health centre, and UNICEF provides the drugs and equipment to treat conditions ranging from sores to malaria and sexually transmitted diseases.

The Voix du Coeur staff works to ensure that every child is prepared to return to school. With UNICEF’s support, it holds classes in mathematics, French and life skills that prepare children to re-enter formal education.

Every child’s return to school is a new victory for the centre and its staff. Older children are prepared to start vocational training with one of the programme’s partner organizations, such as the Don Bosco Centre, where they learn skills to become electricians, carpenters or masons. 

These initiatives represent small but concrete steps in the rebuilding of a country that has suffered from years of instability and remains one of the poorest in the world.



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