2 February 2013

Rwanda: From a Street Drug Addict to a School Fanatic

"I grew up in Kigali with my father but unfortunately in 2003, he passed away - I was 14 and in Primary Two. My mother was in the village and I hardly ever lived with her. With no financial assistance and no one to take care of me, I decided to drop out of school to face life on my own," 25 year old Jack Nshimiyimana narrates.

After the death of his father, he thought of going to meet his mother but had no clue where she stayed. He chose to stay in Kigali, rather than go on a wild goose chase for someone he might never have found.

"I thought a lot about what to do with my life since I was old enough to take care of myself. I hit the streets and started hustling like other children," he says.

He started by picking scrap metal from rubbish pits in Kinamba-Kagugu and sold it to welders at a small fee. He managed to live by that for some time though as a street kid, he used to sleep wherever was comfortable for the night."

Mingling with other children that had been on the streets for quite a while, Nshimiyimana was inevitably tempted to pick some of the negative behaviour these other children had. Even though he swore never to take any drugs, street life was getting too hard to not get tempted.

Nshimiyimana started taking drugs and smoking cigarettes. With drugs and cigarettes, theft came quite easily and he did other shameful acts he would rather not talk about.

"Part of me always told me it was wrong and that I should stop it immediately but seeing as we had no consistent food or shelter, it's almost natural that we would take solace in marijuana," he said.

Eventually, this young man figured enough was enough and got a strong urge to go back to school. So he went and registered for the 'catch-up' program in Kagugu.

Here, he met Patrick Kiruhura, the President of Root Foundation. "He was already helping a number of children, so we chatted and I talked to him about my life and my wish to go back to school. When he asked me if I was still on drugs I lied to him,that I wasn't yet I was still taking marijuana," Nshimiyimana narrates.

Kiruhura later found out the truth and counseled him about the dangers of the habit and how it would affect his life if he didn't stop. Kiruhura then started the hunt for a good school for Nshimiyimana.

"Luckily he got a school for me. I joined Groupe Scolaire Kagugu and today I'm proud to say I am a drug free student in Senior Two. I will forever be grateful for the help I got from the Root foundation."

Many Rwandan children are on the streets and it's not because they want to be there, but because of various circumstances. On the street, however much they try, they are exposed to peer pressure. But one act of charity to even just one child can make a difference.

Root Foundation, chaired by Kiruhura, goes to the street, looks for helpless children especially those involved in drugs and helps them live a better life. The Foundation solicits for funds from various sources and puts them in schools and provides necessary scholastic materials. Initially, they stay at Kiruhura's home as he fights tooth and nail to get them a family to take care of them as he follows up from there.

"These children really need a lot of guidance even after they quit drugs," he says.

"Sometimes they fall out with their foster families and run back to the streets. There was a boy who left his family last year and I am still looking for him," Kiruhura explains.

Through actions like these, the number of children on the street could greatly reduce. David Musilikare, Youth Advisor of Gasabo District talks about showing care and love to every Rwandan child.

"We get a number of projects from compassionate youths like Kiruhura and usually do our best to help and offer support. We also have a number of projects that help children get back a meaningful life but with peoples support, we could all fight this," Musilikare says.

A life changed for a child doesn't only make their life better, but inspires the rest.

Copyright © 2013 The New Times. All rights reserved. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com). To contact the copyright holder directly for corrections — or for permission to republish or make other authorized use of this material, click here.

AllAfrica publishes around 2,000 reports a day from more than 130 news organizations and over 200 other institutions and individuals, representing a diversity of positions on every topic. We publish news and views ranging from vigorous opponents of governments to government publications and spokespersons. Publishers named above each report are responsible for their own content, which AllAfrica does not have the legal right to edit or correct.

Articles and commentaries that identify allAfrica.com as the publisher are produced or commissioned by AllAfrica. To address comments or complaints, please Contact us.