A talk with Fabrice, the animator of Girineza

1. Why did you decide to join Girineza ?

Because it is a project that helps vulnerable children who are leading a difficult life. Deep inside I couldn’t tolerate anymore a child suffering before my eyes. I lived my self 8 years as a street child and I know well how hard it can be. I didn’t want it to happen to others anymore.

2. Girineza is a very small organization: just 7 children! According to you there are advantages in having a small organization? If so, which ones?

Girineza is small, it has been 5 years now that we take care of 10 children. Some have left along the way and others will come in. I think the greatest advantage of Girineza is that it is easy to follow each child individually in such a small group. Each child is followed in his daily challenges, we know every small improvements and every limit, and when needed we interveene instantly ! In big organizations often the focus is not on specific behaviour changes in each child therefore the support is not as precise as in a small organization like ours. I also think that in big organizations it is more difficuclt to mesure the real impact. But of course a small organization is limited in the number of children it can support and that is very hard especially in emergency situations.

3. What is a normal day at Girineza like?

In the morning we receive at our center the children on their way to school. We give them tea and beignets and then they go to class as they start at 7.30 am. At around 1 o’clock they come back, take a shower and eat together. Each has his own dish. After lunch they have 30 minutes pause and then they start homeworks together, grouped accordingly to age and class. We also do after-school support for those who are weak in certain subjects. At 3.30 pm each child goes back home.

It is very rewarding because we help children to succeed in their classes, speak different languages, learn mathematics, etc. and we see the results straight away. It is also good to give them a space where to eat and do homeworks without external distractions (family problems and such) which often interfere with the education of the children in our country. We also give them health care and psychological support.  And of course we play with them, which in Burundi is a luxory for children these days.

The main challenge we face is security. Before our children could stay longer at Girineza but nowadays it’s too dangerous so they have to go back home early. Then, as we’ve become a reference point for our neighborhood, we have many people coming to ask if we can take their children too. It is difficult to say we don’t have the means to do so.

4. In Burundi there are many vulnerable children who need support. Which are the criterias you follow to accept new children in your organization? 

It is extremely difficult to say when child is more vulnerable than another, especially in neighborhood like ours that are very poor and look like slums. We try to target young children who dont go to school and children who beg in town ( especially little girls). Before we take them in we go see their families to understand their situation and make sure the families agree. Some times it is difficult to work with the families but in general it works quite well as we provide income-generating activities to support them.

5. You do social work with children since a long time. What is it that made you take this decision? Would you like to share your experience with us?

Since 1993 civil war I grew up in refugees camps. I used to go find food in the streets of Bujumbura, and I did so for 8 years. Some days I would go back home and some days I would’t. I have been a begger, a plastic bags seller, a cigarettes seller, an eggs seller and a marijuana seller but I never stopped going to school! Then I joined the traditional drum players and I met people who helped me. Through them I met the organization Sports Sans Frontieres (today Pl4Y International) and I got my first formation in social-athletic animation in 2010. Since, I focused on socio-ahtletic animation for street children and refugee camps children, and, thanks to the support of Girineza, I went back to University to study Social and Clinic Psychology. I am currently doing my last year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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