Presbyterian Street Children's Ministry - January 2017 Update

Kigali, Rwanda

The “Centre Presbytérien d’Amour des Jeunes” (CPAJ) is a faith based non-profit organization working under the authority of the Presbyterian Church in Rwanda. Started in 1998, CPAJ has a vision of reducing the social-economic vulnerability of children and their families/guardians. CPAJ focuses mainly on improving the well-being and developing life skills of children and youth from the most disadvantaged groups in Rwanda through mainstream education and skills (vocational) training. 

The Current Situation of CPAJ 
In 2016, 51 street children came through CPAJ – 46 have been reintegrated either with their families or with foster families. CPAJ now has 36 children in residence, and recruitment for new children continues as we are finding a higher number of street children this year than last year. CPAJ has the capacity to house around 50 children comfortably. After a period of moral rehabilitation, the new children are enrolled in schools or skills training and then reintegrated with their families/guardians. 

CPAJ is also educating 25 students in several different high schools. Most of them are connected with their families but some stay at CPAJ during their school holidays because they are not yet with families or relatives/caregivers due to various reasons. CPAJ currently supports over 200 children in either elementary or high school or skills training.

Because the target population of CPAJ is the most vulnerable children, particularly orphans and children from very poor families, CPAJ activities are based on four thematic areas: education, health, social-economic development and evangelization. The staff stays busy with recruiting children from the street (convincing them to leave the street is not an easy task), school reintegration, family reintegration, and professional training. CPAJ also envisions empowering families after reintegration. “We have different strategies for each activity,” says CPAJ Coordinator Sophonie Rubyagiza.

Sophonie also reaffirms that CPAJ’s mission is to enable children and youth living in the streets to overcome their vulnerability and to develop their capacities through vocational training, school reintegration and, if possible, reintegration with their families. By reintegrating them into society and helping them with skills, these young people are given a chance for a bright future. The process for each child differs depending on the reason that made him/her opt for street living. “Enabling a child to leave the street is one of the greatest honors of my life,” said one of the longest CPAJ coordinators. The process includes recruiting and convincing the child to leave the street life, six months of transitioning including time to determine the problems that pushed the child to leave his family and enter the street, and trying to find solutions to his problems. “During this period, we teach the child ‘normal’ behavior for his age – including not taking drugs and being responsible for his sexual conduct, as many children entering CPAJ have been abused.” The staff also works on getting them used to a regular lifestyle: respecting a schedule and having a passion for something. 

The next step includes a visit to the family. The decision to reintegrate the child either with his own family or with a foster family can only be made after a series of visits in order to get to really know the family. After reintegration, we keep the child in school by paying educational fees and making regular follow-up visits with the family to take care of problems that may arise. 

Vocational Training     
CPAJ offers vocational training to equip young people with work skills. Three vocational classes are currently being taught by professionals: tailoring, hair dressing and serigraphy (silkscreen printing). In addition to these classes, training on the basics of finance, accounting and group organization are given by the CPAJ accountant to help prepare the young people for how to run their own businesses. At the end of their training, the center helps them enter the work market. Literacy classes are also offered to students as needed – some may not have had the chance to learn to read or write. Currently 105 young people are attending the training programs, and some of them will graduate in February 2017.

Counseling and Moral Support    
CPAJ social workers work with the children in groups and one- on-one, listening and trying to find ways to help them regain confidence and trust. Drama and drawing/coloring are also used to help the children express their problems and heal from their trauma. There is meditation every morning, and chapel and Bible teaching on the weekends.

Challenges, Needs and Prayer Requests        
    Dormitories and latrines are still limited. Bedding, clothing, and uniforms must be replenished yearly. 
    Kitchen is very old; it needs to be renovated and kitchen equipment is needed.
    Multipurpose hall needs to be completed and requires some basic equipment so it may be used.
    Transportation for family reintegration is a serious problem requiring expensive car rentals to move children and their possessions.    
    Providing meals, medical care, school fees/materials, etc. is difficult due to limited financial resources.
    Please pray for resources for family empowerment projects to bring a lasting solution to poverty and sustainability for this program.

As always, Outreach is grateful for your partnership in this work of saving children’s lives. We cannot do it without you. So on their behalf, we say “thank you” for your generous support.

Ebralie Mwizerwa, Projects Coordinator    
The Outreach Foundation

Read more about the Presbyterian Street Children's Ministry in Kigali by clicking HERE.

Outreach is seeking $10,000 for food, clothing, and education and an additional $10,000 towards the completion of the multipurpose hall.