Reaching out to Street Children in the Democratic Republic Of Congo

Poors
Typography

ORPER (Oeuvre de Réclassement et de Protection des Enfants de la Rue) was founded in 1981 by Frank Roelants SVD, to respond to the growing population of street children in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo. The director of ORPER, Alpha Mazenga SVD, has given a short description of this association and its activities. Currently, Kinshasa has about 10 million inhabitants. There are between 20 and 25 thousand street children in Kinshasa and the number is constantly growing. Some are in the streets because of the war which caused them to lose ties with their relatives, others because the family accused them of witchcraft.

Increasingly, the street became their "home". They live and eat by begging or even stealing. Some of them do small work, or sell different goods. In Kinshasa, they are mostly found in the main streets, close to the main public buildings and places where there is a great influx of people. Street children are facing many risks in their lives: malnutrition, disease, lack of health care, substance abuse, prostitution, violence and insecurity. ORPER reaches out and helps these children. Their general aim is: protection of the children, reintegrating them in their families and providing them with some socio-professional integration. This organization works for the improvement of their conditions, providing shelter, education and mediation with the families.

At the moment, ORPER has two shelter centres, one for boys, and another for girls. They are called “open centres” because children can come in and go out as they wish or need. In these centres, children can stay overnight, consult a nurse, and have a meal, or play. ORPER also has four centres for accommodation (3 for boys, 1 for girls). They are called “closed centres” because the capacity is limited. The children live there and go to the nearby schools. They learn to live in a structure pending their return to a sustainable family. All the children cherish the support given by the centre (food, health, education, and clothing).

ORPER has also a Mobile team. There is a minibus with a team on board consisting of a teacher, a leader (as educator), a nurse and a driver whose mission is to meet children in the streets of Kinshasa every day, except on weekends. Its main objectives are to raise awareness of risk behaviours, the protection against immediate hazards, health care and referral of appropriate structures, namely the existence of “open centres” and its services. One can only marvel at the way this centre functions for the welfare of the street children.

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