Life of a volunteer – Théa’s Story

This was a trip I have wanted to do for a while and never had the chance due to education. Fortunately, I had some spare time and the money to do it in August 2014.

So on the 4th August 2014 I set off on the long journey to Bujumbura, Burundi journey time: 26 very long hours! I was greeted by Dieudonné upon arrival of Bujumbura and taken to the hotel I would stay in for the first week of my travel, whilst my brother and Dad were there. Once we were settled it was time to meet the children!

It was overwhelming, the excitement of the children, the smiles and welcome they gave us. Never had I expected this, knowing how much they go through every day to survive, these children had the widest smiles, wider than most western children. It was a powerful moment for me to see how genuine they were, there was nothing fake about the way they greeted us. They did not treat us any different because of the colour of our skin or the colour of our hair.

It was very important for me to learn the way of life there, learn about the children and become a part of the community and not be the outsider looking in. I truly valued the change of lifestyle, having to wash clothes by hand, flooding the bathroom because there was no shower curtain, going to bed at 9:30pm because the power went out and they did not turn it back on. It definitely made me realise how easy we have it at home with our washing machines and endless supply of electricity rather than having to rely on generators!

By mid-way through my trip I had spent a lot of time with the kids in the mornings; even with the language barrier it did not stop me from communicating with them. I watched them dance and play, taking part in their games, which they taught me. I spent time telling them how important education is to be able to live their dreams (even if they wanted to be a football player!) In the afternoons I would help Dagmar with updating their social media sites (YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram) as well as any other odd jobs that needed doing.

On my days off I explored some of the hotels including one that owned chimpanzees, I even managed to get a hug from one, (while everyone else ran away!). Visiting lake Tanganyika to swim (even with the Hippo’s and Crocodiles).

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I absolutely loved the time spent out there; I found I had learnt more from the children than I ever imagined I would. They have become like a family to me and I truly believe that one day these children will make a huge impact on African society, through the Youth Engagement Program (YEP). The memories from this trip will never leave me and I truly recommend taking a trip like this to get a better perspective on life as well as helping a worthy cause.

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A year on I still miss it, I miss the children and Dieudonné. I have one regret: Not staying for a longer period of time! I am still working with Street Action and doubt that I would ever not support this well deserved charity that help a project so worthy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is a trip I would and will definitely do again for much longer than a month!

Life on the Streets – Fiona’s Story

My name is Fiona and I am 16 years old, I would like to share my story.

When I was younger I lived with my mother, brothers and sisters. My father did not live with us nor did any of my other siblings fathers. My dad, who is a cook lives around Bujumbura and is Congolese.

Sadly, my mother and brothers died of ‘witchcraft’ (this is practiced in Burundi) leaving me with nowhere to go. My dad offered me to go and live with him, only if I became Muslim; I declined.

I then went to live with my mothers’ younger sister; I lived there for 10 years. I was told to wash the dishes, sweep and wash the floor and all the other chores in her house, I felt unappreciated for all the hard work I did, so I left. My aunt never said a word about me leaving, since I was seen as a burden. After this I went to live with my older sister and her husband, this was a lot better for me. However, one day my sister went away for a few days leaving her husband and I at home. One night her husband tried to rape me, I managed to get away but realized that I could not stay there anymore, I ran away.

Afterwards, I went to live with another aunt of mine. One of the girls I lived with stole some flour from my aunts’ cupboard to make naan bread, she told me not to tell anyone, so I didn’t out of fear of what would happen if I did. When my aunt arrived home she found out about the missing flour and threatened to beat us up if we did not admit to who did it. No one said a thing so she burnt us all; I now have a larg scar on my leg.

After the incident I left and went to live with Donna (another New Generation Child). My dad would come to visit often and brought Donna’s parents some beer as a peace offering. Donna and I used to go to the market and go through the garbage bins to find rice and potatoes, which we used to cook and eat.

After a while I left Donnas’ to go stay with Josie and Jane (New Generation children) who also lived on the streets. We used to stay in places that were not very secure especially in wet weather the house would often be swept away. We moved away from this area once we realized it was too far to walk to school each morning. We then found a house that was unfinished which, was much closer to the school. Living on the streets was not easy, some of the boys (now New generation Kids) that were also on the streets would come to find us and try to rape us. The man who ran the building we stayed in chased us away due to unwanted problems caused. That night we had nowhere to go. We ended up sleeping under a palm tree, the night after was similar but under the tree by the tree café.

The night after that we slept at the school until late in the evening when the guard came around, so we had to run away again. We were once again left with nowhere to go.

Sylvester, a former child from the New Generation center spotted us and helped us, by making sure we were safe each night, we all felt a lot safer with him around. He would often speak to the people who would chase us away to explain the issue to them and hopefully convince them to let us stay. He brought us flour when we only had vegetables to eat. He saved us; he is like a father. He wanted to help us more, get us off the streets and into a safe place so he tried to call Dieudonne (the founder of New Generation) but unfortunately he did not answer, he then tried Igor he was not sure what he could do to help. So as a last resort he called Amela, she offered us shelter at her house for the night; they then arranged for us to stay at New Generation.

Life is beautiful now; we have food and water, a place to sleep and great friends… We can lead a normal life and not worry about where we will sleep each night. When I grow up I would like to become a lawyer, I don’t have a reason but my body and mind tells me that is what I was meant for.

 

Note: Names have been changed due to the child protection act.

 

STREET ACTION EVENT – 17.09.15

You are reading this as someone who is in interested in the work of Street Action in some way. We are excited to be able to invite you to meet Dieudonne – founder of New Generation, our Burundian partner – at 6.30pm on Thursday 17 September.

Please join us to hear what is happening at New Generation, understand how the current political turmoil in Burundi is impacting their work with street children, and to explore their longer term vision of seeing young people act as a catalyst for positive change in Burundi. Dieudonne will be joined by Innocent and Eric – two of the boys from New Generation who were part of the team that travelled to represent Burundi at the Street Child Word Cup last year.

The evening is being hosted by FCB who have supported New Generation for a number of years. The reception will be held in the foyer of their offices at FCB Studios, 20 Tottenham Street, London, W1T 4RF from 6.30pm – 8.00pm.

If you are able to attend then please RSVP to info@streetaction.org so we have a rough idea of numbers.

If you cannot join us for that evening then do explore this website or email us to find out how you can get involved with our work through donating your time, money or energy.

We really hope to see you on Thursday 17 September to introduce you to Dieudonne, Innocent and Eric and allow us to express our thanks for you involvement with Street Action in person.

Kind regards

Nick Turner, Co-Founder of Street Action