A picture of a child walking outside.
From the street to grandma’s

Their mum and dad beat Evariste and his younger brothers Selmani and Eric, so they ran away from home and lived on the street. Help from FVS Amade has enabled Evariste and Selmani to return home and they now live with their grandma. They go to school and play football whenever they want. But their little brother Eric is still living on the street ...

We’d slept on the rubbish dump at the market in town. We got up early to look for wood to sell to people who make coal, but my little brother Selmani didn’t want to. He disappeared into town instead. I went to the market on my own and looked. Our little brother Eric wasn’t with me either. He had slept somewhere else.When I got back to the dump, Selmani wasn’t there. I heard that the police had been there looking for street children.

“That night I prayed to God for Selmani to come back. We always sleep together, even if we do different things during the day. He was gone for four days. I searched everywhere and asked after him, but no-one had seen him. At night, I prayed that nothing bad had happened to him. I met Eric, but he didn’t want to help look for him.”

Some children sitting on the ground, by a wall.

It’s nice to have a roof over our heads, at grandma’s. There’s a mattress and a quilt. Evariste doesn’t get wet when it rains. He used to live at a rubbish dump; it smelt horrible and was really dirty. He got soaked through whenever it rained.

Help for the boys

“One day when I was going past the prison, I heard someone calling my name:    
‘Eva, Eva!’
It was Selmani. He was sittingin a car with some adults. I was so happy to see him.    
‘We’re from an organization called FVS Amade. We helped your brother get out of prison and we’re going to take him to our centre for street children,’ explained one of the adults. ‘Would you like to come too?’

I wanted to, and we got to stay with FVS for ten days. They gave us food, shoes and new clothes. One day they said that we would be able to go home to grandma’s and live with her. We were pleased. I’ve always felt happy with her. We have to help out with some things at home, but we can play football and go to school.”

A bunch of children running outside.

Everyone after the ball Evariste, his little brother Selmani and their friends play football whenever they can. The ball is made out of rolled up bits of material. There aren’t any rules. Everyone goes after the ball and shoots and passes as much as they can. If the ball goes outside the edge you have to try and catch it quickly, or it’ll get lost forever down in the ravine.

Hard life on the street

“Living on the street was tough. I’ve been in prison four times. We used to steal watches and phones. We used the money to buy a little food and glue, which we sniffed. The police caught us because they didn’t want street children on the streets. They used to let me stay in prison for three or four days before letting me out.

“Sometimes young people from the government militia captured us. They were on drugs and they beat us and wanted to steal our things. They could also lock us up for a few days.

“When I first started living on the street, mum and dad were really angry when I came home again. I’d gone off with some other kids and stayed with them. Dad shoved me in a sack and beat and kicked me.

“Mum forced us to do loads of work at home. When we didn’t do it, she hit us. She tied me up once, but Selmani cut me free with a knife.

Young students inside a classroom.

Evariste and Selmani had never been to school before. They are in the same class, year 1, even though Selmani is two years younger than Evariste. They go to school in the mornings, and in the afternoons, the older children go to school.

A young boy walking through a market.

Searching for their little brother...

That’s why we ran away from home and never went back. Eric ran away when he was just two years old. “It’s better now we’re living with grandma. She doesn’t hit us.”

Evariste wishes his youngest brother Eric could come and live with him at grandma’s. Eric usually hangs around the market. They found him once, but he disappeared again.

Sometimes after school, Evariste and Selmani travel into the centre of the capital Bujum-bura to look for their little brother Eric. They get help from FVS Amade.

Evariste and Selmani know roughly where Eric usually sleeps and spends his time during the day. They also know which other street children know him.

They don’t have any photos, but Selmani looks a lot like Eric, so several people at the market understand who they’re looking for. Many say they know where they’ve seen Eric.    
“He was here earlier on. Check at the Asian market,” says one woman.

A girl Evariste knows says she hasn’t seen Eric for several days. Two boys recognise Evariste and Selmani. They ask what they’re doing there in their school uniforms.    
“We live with grandma and we’ve started school. It’s good,” says Evariste.

Found and lost

Sometimes they walk round the market for several hours. Sometimes they go home after just a short time. FVS Amade doesn’t want Evariste and Selmani to feel tempted to go back to their old friends. Although sometimes some of the street children they meet come into contact with FVS Amade later. They realise they can get help, maybe even start school.

One day, Evariste and Selmani find out that someone from FVS Amade has found Eric. She recognised him because he looked like Selmani. Eric went with her to FVS Amade, but he only stayed for five days. He met Evariste and Selmani, but then he disappeared.
“He’s very dependent on drugs. If we find him again, we’ll need to help him get off the drugs,” says a social worker at FVS Amade.

 
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