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Burundi is a country that went through a cycle of violence and civil war. The civilian casualties and property damage caused are often seen as the only consequences of the strife. Unfortunately, Burundians focus only on the immediate collateral damages caused by the war, and not those impacts that will come to bear in the future. A primary example of this is the street children phenomenon and poverty. Would it be wise to deliberately ignore the damages that eventually turn into time bombs?
Poverty is considered the primary driver in the rising number of street children in Bujumbura, Burundi. Two main categories of children have been well documented by the Youth Building in Synergy to End Poverty (YBSP) Association, the organization that initiated and executes the “Feed a Child” program:
- The first category is of children who go to school (primary education is free in Burundi) and have a roof to sleep under. Begging is a means of survival for the family, so parents send their children to beg on the streets.
- The second category is the most vulnerable, in which children have no home. They beg on the streets to survive, spending their nights in the gutters. For the nine months it rains in Burundi, they have to search for other places to sleep.
“The Feed a Child program, presented by the Bujumbura Hub in partnership with Youth Building in Synergy to End Poverty, comes as a solution to the problem for those children abandoned to an untenable fate. We intend, if possible, to end the phenomenon of street children,” says Leis-Bruel Haragirimana, founder and CEO of YBSP.
Setting and Reaching Goals
The goal of the program is to reintegrate street children with their families and society. Some will be sent back to their families if desired, following training in entrepreneurship. They will benefit from a start-up fund for income-generating activities. Others who want to continue studies, and/or for whom reintegration with their families is impossible, will be supported by YBSP. Twenty-five other children are already benefiting from such support.
The project was designed to restore faith in humanity in the hearts of these children who have lost all confidence in an increasingly individualistic society. These fragile young people living in horrible situations are not seen with a good eye by many. To avoid doubling their pain, the program contains another important component: the Sunday Meal, which is a shared with beneficiaries of the Feed a Child program, and children who are still on the streets. This component has two objectives: first, to identify children eligible for the Feed a Child program by assessing their needs, and second, to provide connection and hope to those children still on the streets so that they do not feel alone and abandoned.
To get a real feel for the impact of this project, you can view our video here.
In addition to the standard programming of “Feed a Child, we have also organized the following special activities for the street children.
Over the past two years, for example, Christmas parties were held. Last year, over a hundred street children got to see Santa for the first time, and he came with gifts of clothes for each and everyone of them. Children hospitalized in one of Bujumbura’s public hospital were also visited and given presents.
In 2013, when torrential rains completely destroyed some of Bujumbura’s poor neighborhoods, including many homes of the street children, a fundraising campaign was organised to help those who had lost property and loved ones.
In this world where little things can be of great importance, our slogan is “Small steps, Big Changes.
Blog Author Leis-Bruel Haragirimana is the founder and CEO of YBSP (Youth Building in Synergy to end Poverty), an organization coordinating community actions to help the most underprivileged people in Bujumbura, Burundi.