Dear Friends of Rwandan Children,
The Centre Présbyterien d’Amour des Jeunes (CPAJ) was built by the Presbyterian Church of Rwanda in 1998. CPAJ was originally created to help alleviate the immediate consequences of the genocide and war that left a multitude of orphaned children on the streets. With the advent of the AIDS pandemic, more children were left homeless following the deaths of their parents from HIV/AIDS. The CPAJ currently serves these children of the streets by providing a facility for education, recreation, and spiritual activities during their reintegration/reunification process.
One CPAJ boy, 23 year-old Noel Twiringire pictured on the left with CPAJ Director Cyprien Musabwa, told his story to Nancy Collins, PC(USA) mission co-worker and regional liaison for East Central Africa. Though told in halting English, his story caught Nancy’s attention.
When Noel was 12, he was rescued by CPAJ staff from the nearby garbage dump where he was scavenging for food and anything that might have value. One day in 2000, CPAJ staff came to the garbage dump to talk to the street children. Noel and seven others went back with them to the center. According to Noel, some of those who decided not to come are still living at the dump - poverty stricken and illiterate. Noel, on the other hand, completed secondary school in 2011, and if he can find funds for university (a daunting $1,000 per year), Noel’s goal is to study journalism and communication. He dreams of starting a magazine for youth.
In his own words he says, “I was given life in this center, and I will be grateful my whole life for the people who rescued me. I received an education, and I learned about God at this center. I praise God for this. I received decent food every day, and on special occasions we had meat and chips and soda.” Multiply Noel’s story by hundreds of children, and you will have an idea of the impact CPAJ has had on children in Rwanda. CPAJ Director Cyprien Musabwa says the original concept for the center was a place where boys would stay for short periods of time before being reunited with relatives. However the chaos and displacement after the genocide was so great, it was at times impossible to locate families. Children like Noel ended up living at CPAJ throughout primary and secondary school, thankful for their CPAJ family.
The situation in Kigali is somewhat different today. Children on the streets in Kigali now are there because they have fled poverty, abuse, and family violence. They come to Kigali from all over the country, expecting that somehow they will manage to survive. The means of survival has not changed - the children still end up scavenging at the garbage dump.
Currently, 109 boys ages 12-18 live at CPAJ and attend primary or secondary school. An additional 200 boys supported by CPAJ are in secondary boarding school. CPAJ makes a major effort to reunite the children with their families. However, sometimes the children refuse to return to their families because they are afraid of the poverty or violence awaiting them. And sometimes family members cannot be located, so those children continue to live at the center.
Cyprien Musabwa, the director of CPAJ, studied management and was working at the Presbyterian Church of Rwanda headquarters when CPAJ came into being. He was asked to take the position of director. It was a big change but looking back, Cyprien is glad he accepted the challenge. He says, “The children come with no hope. But after two or three years they have new life. The work is difficult, but it is such a blessing to see the positive impact of the center on these children.”
Praise be to God that this center exists to share with street children the love of God in Jesus Christ.
Your sister in Christ,
East Central Africa Regional Liaison