Like many African countries, Rwanda is a country that struggles to properly care for its children leaving many children to suffer with a difficult life alone in the streets. Street children, as they are commonly referred to, have either have no families at all or have fled or been forced into the streets due to poverty, abuse, neglect or abandonment, and their numbers are on the rise. While the exact causes of the increase in children living in the streets has yet to be identified, many children claim “conflicts in their families, malnourishment and overexploitation by their guardians” as the sources. Yet, President Paul Kagame claims the increase is due to a “lapse in efficiency of public service.” Still others cite the government’s forced closing of orphanages in an attempt to reintegrate children into families as a source of blame. Whatever the reason, children are suffering, and their lives are at risk.
Les Enfants de Dieu — the Children of God — is a Rwanda-based, secular nonprofit that has stepped up to be a solution for boys ages 7 to 18. The name of the organization is intended to inspire in the children a new identity of themselves. Rather than considering themselves rubbish left to rot in the street, the organization seeks to cultivate an identity founded in purpose and intention in an environment in which each individual’s talents can be discovered and cultivated.
The campus, which is designed to house up to 150 children, includes two dormitories, an office block, an infirmary, a multi-purpose hall, kitchen, library (with more than) 4000 books in various categories, art supplies, games; tables and benches, art gallery, classrooms, playground, garden and fish pond is the first stable home many of the boys have ever experienced. And les enfants de Dieu are indeed thriving.
We visited the school today to meet the children and see how the school has grown since the last visit by Dr. Rick Halperin and other Embrey Human Rights students — at the last visit, one Southern Methodist University Embrey Human Rights traveler was so inspired by the organization’s mission that she funded the development of the second dormitory. The children were excited to have visitors. They performed a drum ceremony, traditional dancing, gymnastics, and street dancing before engaging in a game of volleyball with us.
The children learn English at the school and were able to have delightful conversations with us, helping us to learn more about what their lives on the street were like and how the opportunities provided for them at Les Enfants de Dieu has transformed their lives.
From a peace building perspective, peace is defined as the ability to experience human security and to live a life of dignity that is free of fear. Les Enfants de Dieu is peace in action.
An international speaker, peace-building trainer and mediator, Robyn works with individuals, corporations and nonprofit organizations in discovering the root causes of their conflicts, so they may transform their relationships and create new and productive paths forward individually and as teams. She also works with community leaders and political and governmental leaders to develop grassroots efforts for building sustainable peace in areas of historic conflict. In this capacity, she has been featured in news outlets internationally.