NIYONSENGA Pacifique is the founder of the Niyo Cultural Centre dedicated to improving the lives of street children. He lived on the street from age 6 but was lucky enough to have met a Canadian called Bruno who befriended him and helped him get an education. As an adult he saw that not every child living in poverty in Kigali, Rwanda, whether on the street or not, has the same opportunity as he did, so he decided to use his 17 years of drumming , dance Art ( Painting) experience to support 112 children. He teaches them these skills so that they can perform or do their own paintings to earn money to pay for their education, medical expenses and day-to-day living. They don’t get paid for their performances; they rely on donations from venue patrons to help give these children a chance.
I started working with only 28 street children – boys – then afterwards I realised that even girls can have the same life in poverty, without an education, and that they are also worthy of my help. I asked some of the boys with whom I started working the reason why they led their lives on the street and found that the reasons are very common: being orphaned, hunger, and some of the kids were born on the street therefore they do not even know who their parents are.
In Rwandan culture it is against Rwandan values and embarrassing to have girls on the street unlike boys, that’s the only reason why I asked the boys where their sisters could be or if they knew where those girls can be found. They told me that most of the time girls are ashamed of joining the street hence they stay at home. Or even when they do, they keep away from sight. That’s how I became pitiful, dedicated, and curious and determined to find out how they are living, so I took some of my boys to show me where they live. I went there and saw the painful life they led.
I learned that their parents failed in “family planning “. It’s quite hard to believe to find a very poor family with more than eight children, all starving, no education, and no future since their parents did nothing to plan for them. For others their parents had died so they simply led their lives on the street if boys, or girls start prostitution when they are even still very young, working as house girls or other harassing work that they don’t deserve.
I came up with an idea of helping using my Rwandan dancing and drumming skills. I also tried to console the children by telling them my own story of the time I was a street kid, this brought them much hope as we had had the same troubles and miserable life and we had the same reasons for joining the street. I told them about how I came to leave the street and about the person who helped me besides my family and explained to them that they can try to get the same. I also told them that they can accomplish their dreams only when they join force and abandon loneliness and that I would try my best to help them as much as I could. I also told them that together we could find help and people to support us because we are no longer invisible. Now, I have 112 kids including those from the poorest families. 22 of them have joined school and others are still waiting for help. Among those 112 kids, twenty of them are still living on the street since they have nowhere to live and yet, I haven’t got any possibility to find them where they can live.
That’s how I started working with the kids. So I thank you so much from deep in my heart the help you give us and encouraging you to keep on finding people to support us.