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Wednesday 24 September 2014

Rwanda: How A Former Street Child Became An Entrepreneur

“I am now a respected instructor and earn a salary monthly. I am now a role model to even those who knew me as a street boy and I am contributing to the development of the country,” Habiyaremye says, adding that he is no longer a threat to society. But the job is only a side income, as he has his own welding workshop.

At a tender age of eight, Samuel Habiyaremye left his home to become a street child. For six years, he fed on leftovers dumped at garbage sites and became addicted to drugs which he bought using stolen money.

“I left home when I was eight years old, I was in Primary One. My family was poor and we lived a deplorable life,” he says.

Habiyaremye’s father died when he (Habiyaremye) was a toddler and his mother worked as a casual laborer, earning so little to feed the family.

“I was influenced by my peers who had earlier gone to the street. I envied the liberty they enjoyed, wandering about and thought they were living a better life,” he says. “I started consuming drugs when I was young and could take as much as my adult friends. I became literally a lion and was feared by everybody.”

Habiyaremye, now a 23-year-old resident of Rugerero Cell in Rugerero Sector, Rubavu District could walk the whole Gisenyi town, literally wrecking havoc, stealing and doing all sorts of things with his friends.

He says that his family and local leaders tried to get him off the street but in vain.

“Going home meant going back to school, which I hated. School to me was worse than prison.”
As time went by, the boy started other vices such as robbery and paying prostitutes on the streets.

“We could waylay people and rob them of all their possessions. Nobody dared to stop us, even security officials in the area knew how dangerous we were. In some cases, we were arrested, beaten and jailed but when we got released, we took to the street again,” he said.

As a street boy, he says they hardly ate cooked food unless they went in garbage heaps to collect what was dumped there.

They depended on raw food such as potatoes, cassava roots, among others, that they stole from people’s farms.

Turning point

Habiyaremye’s life couldn’t remain a nightmare forever, and every time he talks about his transformation, he occasionally pauses for a brief prayer thanking God for what He has done for him.

In 2004, Habiyaremye was picked from the street by well wishers who took him along with some of his friends to train in various vocational and entrepreneurship skills.

He pursued welding and carpentry and after one year, he was given a start-up kit to start his own business.

He started welding which he says helped him earn a decent living and forget about street life.

The well wishers came in the form of an international NGO, ‘Family Health International (FHI 360), which is dedicated to improving people’s lives through integrated, locally driven solutions in over 70 countries across the world.

In Rwanda, it works with various partners across the country and has helped many vulnerable people, especially sex workers, street children and people living with HIV/Aids lead a better life, according to Didier Kamali Rukabu, the project representative.

“I have managed to lift myself and my family from poverty. I have also managed to purchase modern equipment that I use in welding and I now have my own workshop,” says Habiyaremye, adding that he now earns between Rwf200, 000 and Rwf250, 000 a month.

Sharing experience

After years working on his own, Habiyaremye was asked to help train other youths at a local organization known as Vision Jeunesse Nouvelle in Rubavu District where he teaches welding.

“I am now a respected instructor and earn a salary monthly. I am now a role model to even those who knew me as a street boy and I am contributing to the development of the country,” he says, adding that he is no longer a threat to society. But the job is only a side income, as he has his own welding workshop.

Habiyaremye is married with two children. He is also constructing a modern house which he says will cost about Rwf15 million on complition.

Rubavu vice mayor in charge of social Affairs , Rachel Nyirasafari Musine, said many people in the district who previously lived a life of destitution have since turned their lives around after acquiring hands-on vocational skills.

 

Source The New Times

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