The hope that never dies
If I were to put one common word when describing children from any country, I would say ‘resilience’…
Children are developing beings, changing at a rapid speed, growing, absorbing, evolving and filled with energy that drives them through their process of becoming young adults. What I saw in a lot of the children in Congo was hope, strength, power, joy and possibility despite of and against all odds.
At the beginning of their life journey, their future is unpredictable, unknown and allowing for just anything to happen. It makes me wonder what will become of the these young bright faces that I met, where they are now and where they would be years from now.
photo taken: during a french lesson at the Cajed center for the care of ‘les enfants de la rue’ (the street children) in Kinshasa.
a safe place to rest
For ‘les enfants de la rue’, the children of the street in Kinshasa, a bit of ground in an enclosed secure place can make a world of difference where their safety is concerned. These children roam the streets by night in search of food, opportunity and means and ways. During the day, a center like this one (Cajed), is a place for them to be with people who care for a few hours. The can, eat, have lessons, play and most importantly rest. These 2 children were fast asleep during the whole of my visit and despite other children playing and running and jumping all around them.
I am quite behind in these Congo posts for April, because it gets more and more difficult each day to go relive this experience through the thousands of photos captured there. Each photograph forces me to relive the moments with all the emotions that accompanied it.
street child in Kinshasa
Back in 2009, when I visited Congo, there were about 300,000 children roaming the streets of the country and categorized under the name “les enfants de la rue”~ children of the street.
I interviewed some of these children in the CAJED center in Kinshasa, a Congolese non-governmental organization created in 1992 to lodge, care for and support vulnerable children, including children separated from their families and those formerly associated with armed groups, before reunifying them with their families and/or reintegrating them into their home communities. CAJED has been a UNICEF partner since 2004.
This girl in the photo caught my eye as she was passing across the way. She had a haunting look to her and eyes so expressive, they took my breath away. She was not one of the children I interviewed, she was just watching from a distance and her story was kept to herself, so was her name. I call her ‘the beautiful girl in front of the yellow door’.
Pure power was what met me when I walked into the CAJED center in Goma. Power of youth and children exploding right in my face, incredible force emanating in their dance, movement, facial expressions and eyes. Maybe it is Africa or maybe it is the fact that the force of these children was imprisoned during their stay with the armed forces and then suddenly let free, but it was overpowering and incredible to be in the presence of it.
In these centers, the children are taken in and allowed to be children again. They dance, they play, they create, and most important of all, they are so eager to learn. Most of the children dream about being a student again, and of being simply children.
On this day, the children danced the whole time I was at the center, close to 2 and half hours of unrelenting force moving through their bodies. It was exhilarating to witness.