VIJANA UP: Off the streets thanks to Hip Hop

For several years, the town of Goma, located in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, has been welcoming thousands of families fleeing endless wars in the region.

Several children who were separated from their families have found refuge in the streets where they are called the “Maibobo”.

These children, without any assistance, live difficult lives; some become violent, others are easily manipulated and therefore risk being recruited by armed groups and forces.

Since January 2015, some young dancers from Goma, members of the Rinha Crew group, have launched a positive coaching and training initiative for children aged 7 to 16 living in the streets of Goma: Vijana Up!

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Aged 17 to 20, the members of the group are already engaged in the protection and promotion of children’s rights through the “Back to School” campaign which aims to encourage dropouts to return to school.

Their determination to get the children off the streets of Goma by using Hip Hop really struck me.

“Dancing has opened up many opportunities for us. So we thought that it could be really useful to share this talent with these children. It is the only thing that we have to give them”, explains F. Bat., instructor and representative of the group Vijana Up.

Vijana Up means “Stand up, youth and children!” Through dancing and some recreational and educational activities, these young dancers support the children in order to reintegrate them into society and offer them the possibility of a brighter future.

They organise dance classes and events twice a week. The classes allow children from the street and children being hosted in families to exchange, share and express themselves within a structured activity.

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The Rinha Crew attempts to bring these young persons closer to a more protective environment that allows them to focus on their future. The objective is for them to return to a school and family environment and for them to become interested in professional education.

“Our dancing attracts children; some leave the streets to join us. Early on in the project, the children returned to the streets to sleep after the dance classes. Now, we guide them towards the Don Bosco centre where they can sleep. It’s too hard to imagine them sleeping in the streets…”, F. Bat. told me.

Dance is attractive and is therefore a good way to bring children off the streets.

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These young dancers hope to receive support to structure and sustain their project. They think big and would eventually like to find schools that are ready to integrate these children, to receive funding from centres that work for children’s well-being, to identify families who are willing to welcome the children and to gather more young volunteers within the Rinha Crew and for the project.

To show our support, we have made a rehearsal space available to the group at the Kivu Youth Entertainment centre, our creative centre for youth and their talents and training.

To support this wonderful project, let us join forces: http://t.co/kcISIs5uWX

Photos: UNICEF RDC 2015 Kelvin Batumike.

Translated from French by Tahirah Charles.

 

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Kelvin Batumike

Ancien Enfant Reporter et passionné par la défense des droits des enfants,Kelvin Batumike s'est donné pour mission de promouvoir les talents des jeunes afin de leur permettre de prendre leurs responsabilités pour le développement du pays.

Former Child Reporter and avocating for children’s rights since a very young age , Kelvin Batumike has taken it upon himself to promote young people and their talents so as to enable them to assume their responsibilities for the development of the DR Congo.

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