This Sunday I Visited The Children of God

 

zahra_blog Laxmi Parthasarathy

As I was driven further away from the centre of town to an area of Kigali called Ndera I heard the swooshing noise of landing airplanes become louder. The car pulled up to two large white gates which read Les Enfant De Dieu and the noise disappeared into the hills as the gates opened.

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This not-for-profit orphanage currently supports 120 boys between the ages of 5 and 15 that would otherwise be living on the streets of Kigali. Although the orphanage uses the word God in its name it is a secular organization that encourages the exploration of every religion. In fact, the only pledge these boys have to take before coming to the orphanage is to promise that they will attend school. The centre helps the boys transition from the streets into a public school system by beginning their studies at the orphanage.

I was greeted by a tall and slim young man wearing a baseball hat who introduced himself as Noel, the weekend social worker. Noel took me on a tour of the grounds and explained the structure of the centre and its strategy for rehabilitation and reintegration.

Noel- the weekend social worker at Les Enfant De Dieu

Noel- the weekend social worker at Les Enfant De Dieu

As we walked toward a fish pond hearing children giggle out a “bonjour” and “hello” Noel began the tour. He explained that the orphanage has an exemplary system in place that others should follow. The association is partially self-sufficient – it owns its own property, dozens of goats, hens, rabbits, a pond for fishing and a water pump; however the orphanage still relies on its donors for beds, school fees, health insurance and other necessities.

”We realized that the boys needed mosquito nets on their beds to prevent Malaria so we sold one of our goats to purchase them,” explained Noel. 

Noel in the dormitory.

Noel in the dormitory.

We went from the large pond to the on site kitchen, infirmary, and dormitory. The dormitory is full of bunk beds lined in two orderly rows and fitted with the mosquito nets that their goat was able to provide

Hidden at the back of this massive stretch of land is a large basketball court and soccer field. Here we ran into Yomar, the Minister of Administration. Carrying a pad of paper and pen, whistle firmly hung around his neck, Yomar explained that he had a soccer game to organize that evening. His stern and responsible eyes told me that we were holding him and he had to be on his way.

Yomar- Minister of Administration.

Yomar- Minister of Administration.

 
Les Enfant Des Dieu has implemented a system of ministers. The boys must elect one of their peers to represent their concerns to the staff. Each minister deals with matters associated with a specific portfolio such as health care, administration, recreation and education. Yomar explained that election time at the orphanage is quite bustling as the boys must prove that they are responsible. Noel added that it is an opportunity to give the boys some responsibility and to include them in all aspects of decision making in their home.

As we walked back toward the main office the sound of stomping, cheering and yelling caught our attention. We were lead to a small multi-purpose room used for holding meetings and eating meals. There I saw a group of boys being directed by a man from a Rwandan dance company in traditional Intore dancing. They were swinging wooden spears and shields, jumping, squatting, and yelling out words in Kinyarwanda. One young boy in red kept looking back at my camera with a smile from ear to ear as he waved his spear and stomped his over sized, blue flip flops harder to impress his audience.

Intore dance class in the multi-purpose room.

Intore dance class in the multi-purpose room.

The dancing stopped as everyone hurried over to the next set of lessons. They all lined up in front of traditional Intore drums and waited for the signal. The swing of each stick hit their drums in synchronicity while other boys gathered to listen.

The instructor from an Intore dance school teaching the boys to drum.

The instructor from an Intore dance school teaching the boys to drum.

While the lessons continued I was introduced to a boy who said his name was Usman but that I should call him Chris Brown (also the name of a popular, but controversial hip hop singer). Not only was he wearing a shirt that read Chris Brown, but he was prepared to perform. Everyone gathered around as they watched the crazy muzungu (foreigner) sway and dance to his rendition of “With you”.

Usman Ibrahim- A.K.A Chris Brown.

Usman Ibrahim- A.K.A Chris Brown.

As I cheered for Chris Brown to sing another song, another boy approached the circle. 15-year-old Joshua has been living at Les Enfant De Dieu for the past five years. When I asked him what his thoughts were about Les Enfant De Dieu, his bright eyes glistened as he stood up tall and announced “ I’m so happy to be living here…we go to school everyday, sometimes we play foot ball, and I have so many friends. It is a really nice home.”

15-year-old Joshua.

15-year-old Joshua has been living at Les Enfant De Dieu for five years.

2 Responses

  1. Yogini Parthasarathy Says:

    Laxmi, you had talked about the orphanage and how impressed you were with the way it is being run. They say picture is worth a thousand words.Well, from the pictures that you have posted I can see the look of satisfaction on the children’s faces. I am so glad that you are experiencing first hand how simple things in life count towards ones happiness. Your post sounds very genuine. Well done!

  2. Yogini Parthasarathy Says:

    Laxmi, I can see that you were impressed with the way the orphanage is being run. Pictures are indeed worth a thousand words. I see the look of satisfaction and pride on the children’s faces-especially the one with the red shirt. I am so glad you are experiencing first hand how simple things in life can count towards happiness.

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