During BHA’s 2014 Summer Theater Smile Workshop in partnership with local Rwandan organization Grain de Seneve, the participants took an active role in exploring the street kid phenomenon. They were asked to think about the reasons kids end up on the street, the problems they face on the street and some potential solutions to the problem. During discussions, they identified two key issues to address with their community and made two additional requests. These themes were incorporated into their final play which was performed in front of their community, including local leaders, parents and other kids and youth.
Key Issue Areas:
Intense and frequent beatings
The participants reported that many kids flee their homes due to intense domestic violence. When the beatings get too severe, sometimes kids decide that the streets offer an attractive alternative. Several participants who have lived on the street said that street kids themselves are also frequently victims to beatings, sometimes for no reason. This is due to society’s perception of street kids as thieves. For example, a street kid may be enlisted to help carry water up a hill for a mutually agreed upon fee, but once the job is complete they are beaten and told to leave without pay. The kids in the workshop expressed that they are tired of being beaten and that those that beat them should be punished.
Hard Domestic Labor
The workshop participants agreed that subjecting kids to hard domestic work is another reason kids sometimes flee their homes for the street. They said that kids are often forced to complete the more strenuous domestic work around the house, such as cooking, chopping wood, carrying water long distances and up hills, and hand washing clothes. While there is nothing wrong with a few chores, many times this is a full time job for kids and they are unable to attend school. The workshop participants wanted their community to know that they are not just domestic workers; they are people with hopes and dreams.
Help them to attend school
The workshop participants felt that school is the main avenue that can allow them to achieve their goals in life. They felt that if they are able to attend school they have a better chance of being successful adults and ensuring that their children will not become street kids. The participants wanted their community to know that they are, after all, the future of Rwanda, and so it would benefit the country for them to be properly educated.
Help them achieve their dreams
Beyond being concerned about school, the participants were also interested in seeing their community members support their dreams. Some of the participants have dreams of being famous actors, while others want to be priests, social workers and even President of Rwanda someday. They asked that no matter what their dream is that their community members do what they can to support those dreams, even if it is just through encouragement.