Child-Pastor or child-beggar ?

street children in DRC

YOUNG REPORTER – Disguised begging continues to grow. Numerous children are looking for a giving hand in Kiwanja, an important city at about 70 kilometres North of Goma. Not acting as adults would do, children proceed in their own way…

These children weren’t scared

On Thursday, I was sitting in front of a little shop in my neighbourhood. Three children showed up. Bare feet, wearing rags, these children weren’t scared to approach me. Clearly, they didn’t have anything to loose! The boy seemed to be the youngest in the group, probably around 8 years old. He was clearly the leader, carrying around his little bag, hanging from his neck with a little cord. The girl must have been around 10. With a piece of torn loincloth, she was carrying another little kid with little black legs on her back.

I get the jitters

It’s the young boy who starts in Kiswahili: “jambo papa” to say “hello papa”, and for me to say “jambo !”. Holding a rosary, the little girl looked freezing and addresses me next: “papa tulita kuya kuombeya !” as if to say “we wanted to pray for you papa!”. Incessantly staring in their eyes, I was a bit late in responding: the question seemed a little heavy, especially since I don’t like opening up to strangers. I felt like I was in front of two little wizards. I had never met them, or at least, I don’t remember having ever seen them anywhere! I was scared and wanted to run away from these children, I had no idea what to do.

Malicious children

My friend, curious, was watching us from his little shop. Very closely. He couldn’t stop himself from laughing, while I was as good as bewitched by these kids, not knowing what to say anymore! Before I could turn my head toward him to figure out what was going on, he called the two children. He gave them a 500 Congolese Franc note and asked them to leave. As if nothing had happened, the children who wanted to pray for me fled in an instant. I hadn’t understood the game, so I asked what had happened. My friend, a shopkeeper in the area, explained to me then the new way of begging that children had been using lately. They definitely got me! How malicious!

Incredible case of disguised begging

They are between 3 and 10 years old. These children sort themselves in groups of two or three. They’re not afraid of the scorching sun. And heavy rain isn’t what is going to stop them. These children spend long days extending their hands to pedestrians or shopkeepers, if they don’t end up in front of offices or on main roads. We never know where they come from and they always start with « we would like to pray for you ..! », rosary in hand.

A necessary help and guidance

One thing is for sure, these children don’t act this way because they want to; it’s a problem of means. Some will tell you they’re orphans while others don’t even know where their families are. Some are used by adults whom they are required to report to at the end of each day. Suffering is what formed their spirit. After all, these children have to earn a living!

Therefore I plead for the construction of an information and education centre to enable giving help and guidance to these children in the eastern part of Democratic Republic of Congo. We need to take advantage of their energy so that they can feel useful and valued in society. If we keep doing nothing, sooner or later they will become a threat; a timed bomb that will explode in broad daylight!

More info about street children in DRC

Photo: UNICEF DRC 2008 Alfredo Falvo

Translated form French by Astrid Gouriten

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Joseph Tsongo

"Je suis Joseph Tsongo, journaliste reporter et blogueur dans l'Est de la RDC. Depuis l'enfance, je porte dans mes veines le virus du journalisme. Dans mes blogs, articles ou au micro de la radio, je traite de la vie des petits et grands, des jeunes et vieux, et surtout de la promotion des bonnes pratiques et initiatives, des gens modèles dans leur domaine d'activité. Je reste actif sur les réseaux sociaux et travaille pour plusieurs agences de presse. 'Des petits pas, pour des profits géants'.

"I amJoseph Tsongo, a reporter and blogger based in Eastern DRC. blogueur dans l'Est de la RDC. Since childhood, I have the journalism virus. In my blogpost, articles and on the radio, I talk about the lives of children and grow-ups, young and old people; most of all, I promote good practices, initiatives and role models. I am an active user of social networks and I work for various press agencies. My moto: "small steps for huge profits".

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