Known for their vulnerability, orphans require more attention and more support from their community and government than other children.
I recently visited the Jamaa Letu (Swahili for “Our Family”) orphanage in Ruashi municipality where I met Florence, an orphan who had lived there since 2007, so for over eight years.
Before arriving at the orphanage, she had endured many difficult circumstances that uprooted her childhood. She summed up her story in the following words:
“I had a family like other children. I studied, I ate until I was full, I was safe and never could have predicted what would happen. Following many family problems and the state of my own health, my stepmother decided that I was a burden and, with my brother, we found ourselves on the street.”
No child imagines himself alone on the street or orphaned. But sometimes life has other plans. On the street, without home or family, these children encounter numerous difficulties such as feeding themselves, finding shelter or tending to their other needs. As Florence told me:
“On the street, we met other children in the same situation; we all lived together in a neglected area and when the sun rose, we each did what we could to feed ourselves.”
By digging through the garbage, picking up discarded food and begging, these children become exposed to many diseases and dangers as well as exploitation and abuse.
In the street, how can they study? How can they envision a better future for themselves? It is possible, but only by receiving help and care.
These children can continue to hope for a better life thanks to the welcome and protection offered by different orphanages and centres who take in orphaned children. Today, Florence has the courage to tell me her tragic story thanks to the happiness and stability that the orphanage has provided her.
She attests: “Before coming here, I had lost the taste for life. They took me in, occupied themselves with my health and education and, thanks to their support, I am studying to be a seamstress today. I certainly prefer this life to when I was living on the street and I hope that every child that finds himself homeless can be taken in, because alone they can do nothing.”
There is nothing an orphan needs more than to be taken care of, but those people who can help these children are often discouraged today when the government does not lend a strong, and necessary, hand.
“Our orphanage has existed for 10 years, yet the government provides little support. We operate with the assistance of private donors, but it doesn’t motivate us enough to continue,” the head of the Jamaa Letu orphanage explained to me.
These orphans need more significant support from the government in order to continue receiving their essential care.
We, the Young Reporters, are moved to see all these people committed to supporting our contemporaries with such limited support. In collaboration with UNICEF, we ask the government of the DRC to take measures to support the commitment of these people so that they can continue to care for vulnerable children and orphans in particular so that they might in turn become valuable and productive citizens to our country in the future.
We hope that this will be taken into consideration.
As Enfants Reporters, we will continue to speak out and ensure that the implementation of children’s rights is given due attention in our country.©UNICEF RDC/Josué
Kindly translated from French by Neige Gaudillat
Josué est un Enfant Reporter de Lubumbashi, au Sud de la RDC, depuis 2013 et fait des études scientifiques à l'école. Il souhaiterait devenir médecin mais ne s'écartera pas de la promotion des droits des enfants en RDC. Il a pour devise : pas d'enfants protégés, pas d'avenir assuré ; respecter les droits de l'enfant c'est contribuer à la construction d'un avenir meilleur.
Josuéhas been a Young Reporter in Lubumbashi, Southern DRc, since 2013 and studies science at school. He would like to become a doctor but will continue to promote children's rights in DRC. He has a motto: no protection for children means no guarantee for a future ; respecting children's rights helps construct a brighter future.