Since RDDC started its partnership with FidesCo Rwanda, a lot of kids have gone through our program. At first, it was one of the hardest challenges that we faced. We couldn’t imagine how the first group had to exit the program in order for new kids to join. We would receive a new group of kids just as our former students were beginning to show true cognitive improvement. The new kids were totally different from the previous – new faces, different attitudes and unknown behavioral patterns.
When a new group comes, we try to explore the life they have come from – street life. We learn how to handle each one of them. It’s pleasant and interesting to interact with them and discover their different personalities. That doesn’t happen immediately; it takes a lot of work to get them to open up to you – and smile. Few at first respond, and others don’t seem to understand what you are up to, so you have to keep on doing it sincerely because some of them think that people smile only when they want something from you. Some think they are not worthy; they cannot amount to anything at all. However, through our dance classes, I came to realize that personal change is not only brought by big things; if compliments and encouraging words come continuously and patiently, change can be achieved if one is willing.
I have seen kids changing just by words of affirmation. I see them doing what they thought they couldn’t do. Their self-esteem improves, not because they have all they need, but because they know someone told them that they can do better and their future is shining so bright. What a pleasure it is to see a little child who used to ignore his positive qualities, used to use negative words to describe himself, to then start to like himself and value his achievements. At least one in every ten of these kids will stand tall, knowing that he was there to learn and started thinking, “It’s time for me to show the good side of me.”
Eugene Dushime is the Country Director for RDDC Rwanda. He is a former contemporary dancer and assists with the RDDC program in Guinea as well.