From despair to hope: 22 former street children launch book of testimonies

22 former street children have released a book about the hardship and bitterness of street-life, and how they rose out of it to start a better life of hope.

The book is titled “Kuva mubwihebe ukagira icyizere cy’ubuzima” (meaning: From despair to hope).

The writers are beneficiaries of Centre Presbyterien pour Amour des Jeunes (CPAJ).

Their accounts showcase why they quit their families to go to streets, the struggle that ensued after embarking on street-life, challenges they encountered in various facilities that had taken them off the streets, and life at CPAJ.

Some of them are genocide orphans or children from vulnerable families.

The 240-page book is written in Kinyarwanda, but it also has a French version.

The book was supervised by Dr. Obed Quinet Niyikiza who is an author of various books, and the publication was sponsored by Daniella Robertson, the founder of Centre Presbyterien pour Amour des Jeunes.

According to the writers, the book of testimonies had an objective of assisting young children who are still struggling with street life, to encourage them to change their ways and join their families.

Jean de Dieu Munyemana is one of the writers.

Despite the uneasy stories of his past, he is now a father of three, a journalist and businessman. He joined the street after losing his parents during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.

“I decided to go to the street because I had lost hope. We faced hard times on the street as we were consuming drugs. Things changed when I was brought at CPAJ. Now, I am having a new chapter of a life that was changed,” he said.

The contributors to the book include Theogene Sebera, Francois Xavier Ngabonzima and Hantson Kibugenza.

Aimable Twahirwa, Director General of Youth Empowerment, and Culture Promotion in the Ministry of Youth and Culture, said that the book contains strong values.

“We should embrace the values that are in the book, to understand that it is everyone’s responsibility to support those in need. We should thank everyone who did something to support the children,” he said.

He added: “It is a great achievement in the Ministry of Youth and Culture to have such a book produced. People should embrace the culture of writing because everyone has a story to tell. We should write and encourage Rwandans to read.”

According to the supervisor of the book, Dr Obeed Quinet Niyikiza, the book carries an important message to remind people that children should be reintegrated into society from the streets.

Talking about the Centre Presbyterien pour Amour des Jeunes she founded, Danielle Robertson said that she was shocked by the movies she had watched on television about the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi when she was working in Brazil.

And when she went back to Switzerland, she talked to various organizations on how to come to Rwanda and finally, she came with Food for the Hungry International in 1996.