Giving renewed spirit, joy and love to street children in Kinshasa
Stanislas Kimpeye, SJ (ACE)
On July 31st 2015, when Père Stanislas Kimpeye was appointed director of the Centre Monseigneur Munzihirwa (C.M.M), he tasked himself with the mission of "giving renewed spirit, joy and love for life to the street children in Kinshasa".
Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, is home to about 30,000 children and youths living on the streets. Furthermore, the phenomenon of "so-called street children" is ever growing in Kinshasa. As a result, there are entire families of "so-called street fathers, street mothers and street children".
The Centre Monseigneur Munzihirwa, a Jesuit social centre in the Province of Central Africa has taken steps to combat this social phenomenon. Each year since 1995, they have tried to accompany about 100 children and youths living on the streets and their families with a view to reconciling and reunifying the two parties. The aim of the CMM is the "familial, social and professional reintegration of the street children of Kinshasa".
The director of the Centre Monseigneur Munzihirwa, Père Stanislas Kimpeye, SJ, engages a dynamic team of social workers to advance this mission of "giving renewed spirit, joy and love for life to the street-children of Kinshasa". Their mission is to welcome, listen to, accompany, provide temporary accommodation (about 9 months), reconcile, and advocate for the dignity and wellbeing of children on the streets. Then, they reintegrate, reunify, accompany the families of so-called street children, and follow up with them post-reunification.
With the financial support of Misereor, Jesuit grants and voluntary personal donations, the CMM tries to respond to the immediate or urgent needs of the children living on the streets in Kinshasa. In this manner, about sixty of the children "recruited from the streets" are sent to school in 11 primary and secondary schools in Kinshasa; two young people (former street children) are registered into two of Kinshasa's universities (University of Kinshasa (Faculty of Economics) and Loyola University of Congo (Faculty of Agricultural and Veterinary Sciences); and about forty benefit from vocational training at the Centre Monseigneur Munzihirwa. The CMM provides training in carpentry, fitting and welding, cutting and sewing, art, agriculture and animal husbandry, and driving. With the two accommodation houses in Matonge, the professional training centre in Cogelos, and the domestic farm in Kimwenza, the CMM is able to coach and educate these so-called street children in an effective manner, giving them renewed spirit, joy and love for life.
In practice, there can be enormous difficulties on the ground when recruiting, listening to, accompanying, accommodating, educating and job-skilling so-called street children. Indeed, the push-factors that force children onto the streets are diverse. The main reason is social in nature: poverty and the deprivation of families. However, a good number of families are destabilized due to the prophetic message of the revival churches, which accuses children of being "sorcerers". This results in some children being chased from their homes and finding themselves on the streets. Once an individual child's problems are identified and their situation is analyzed, Père Stanislas and his dynamic team of social workers begin mediating between the child living on the streets and their family. Reconciliation and family reintegration proves a challenging task for the team at CMM. Still, the successful cases of family reunification have taught the team at CMM that reunifying children and families requires accompaniment both before and after family reunification.
"Giving renewed spirit, joy and love for life to the street children of Kinshasa" cannot be achieved without remaining attentive to each and every individual child. Père Stanislas' concern is to make the children and youths living on the streets understand that children are not born of the streets, that life continues to be sacred, that family continues to be the basic unit of society and that each person has a unique value in the eyes of God. May Mgr. Munzihirwa intercede for the centre, which carries his name, so that we may give renewed spirit, joy and love for life to the so-called street children.