His name is Fiston Sindambiwe, and he arrived at MindLeaps in January 2015. As he told me, he was just passing by the center. Fiston ended up on the streets because he wanted to stay away from the problems in his family. He could not afford paying the last three years of secondary school; just to find something to eat was a very big struggle.
He didn’t have any intention to stay in the MindLeaps program. He came because all his friends joined MindLeaps. He could not stay alone on the street. He thought he will come along and just fake it or “pretend” to be a part of the program in order to stay with his friends.
In his words, he said, “The first thing that attracted my attention was the feeling of joy and release during dance class. Then came IT, which is my favorite, but still there was an inner voice telling me that all of this was just an illusion. Just a few minutes of joy in dance did not mean all my problems could go away. The idea of staying on the street alone while all my close friends are here was also terrifying.”
I interrupted him and asked how he decided to change his behavior and become a good student.
“Watching top students getting prizes after class was making me feel so bad, and I started asking myself, ‘why not me?’ Every time that question came to my mind, I was immediately feeling the courage to plan how I can become the next student to be rewarded.”
I was curious and asked one of his teachers what he thinks about Fiston. The teacher responded that, in these last two months, Fiston has shown that he is rehabilitated: “His activities are well coordinated, he stays at home now and he is regular in our program.”
Fiston is now back in secondary school, but before he left the center, I asked him if he has a message for his colleagues. He responded, “Tell them that the journey to change attracts chances and unexpected opportunities. That journey starts with a simple question one asks himself: ‘Why not me?’ That is the first step to change your whole life.”
Eugene Dushime is the Country Director for MindLeaps.