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8 April 2016 | 10:15

Supporting the resilience of street children in the DRC

Supporting the resilience of street children in the DRC
© M-L. Joliveau - BICE

The BICE organised a training « Resilience guardians » in the Democratic Republic of Congo in order to help street children to overcome their trauma.

Marie-Laure Joliveau, who is responsible for the programs in Africa for the BICE, tells us more about this training…

Why organize a training “Resilience training” in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)?

M-L: In the Northern region and in South Kivu, East of DRC, street children are numerous. They lived extremely difficult and traumatic situations.

A lot of them are former soldier children, in a region that has undergone over 20 years of extremely violent internal conflict.

Some have been separated, willingly or not, from their family. Others had to drop out of school because their parents couldn’t pay for the school fees. The majority of them were victims of abuse or violence.

On their own, these children are often marginalized and deprived of any form of social integration. In order to survive, they are often contrived to steal, involve themselves in dangerous jobs or, for the girls, to prostitute themselves.

What was the “Resilience guardian” training exactly?

M-L: This training is part of a series of training seesions started by the campaign “Peace messengers” launched by the BICE at Christmas.

The aim was to give childhood professionals the methods and the tools to support the resilience of these traumatised children. Four organisation members of the BICE network in DRC have participated in the training.

The training was led by the Abbot Elie Mulomba, Congolese from the Resilience research unit at the Catholic University of Milan.

The mornings were dedicated to theoretical aspects, such as the internal and external resources of children, how to support and develop the resilience of children and the importance of family relations.
Every afternoon, the 20 participants were put into scenarios through workshops with 50 street children welcomed by the Don Bosco Gahinja centre in Goma. The goal of these activities was to support children’s expression, especially through drawing.

By asking the children to represent their fears, their heroes or even the way they see themselves, the participants were able to get some keys to help the children realise their abilities, the strengths they have in them to overcome their trauma and to encourage their self-esteem.

Which conclusion can we draw from the training?

M-L: The conclusion is very positive. The participants were able to deepen their knowledge and support the children better to increase their resilience. The in-situ exercises were very beneficial.

We were already able to observe very encouraging signs in the children over the few days of the training.

We for instance organised a workshop common to parents and children to renew family relations. The children were initially very surprised that their parents had accepted to participate in the activity with them. Seeing the joy on their faces and feeling the renewed bond between some of the children and their parents were strong emotional moments and a true sign of hope.