Kivu Peace Club offers hope to former street children

Thierry Muhindo, 17, a former street child, grooms a customer in Goma, Congo. Muhindo was taught to style hair by the Kivu Youth Peace Club. (photo by Philippe Kituka Lolonga, UMNS)

GOMA, Congo, (UMNS) — During years of conflict in Congo, many children were abandoned by their parents and forced to live on the streets. Today, some of them have a brighter future, thanks to United Methodist young people in Kivu, who have used their own funds to launch the Kivu Youth Peace Club.

Louis Didjango Wanya, president of United Methodist Youth in Kivu, said the goal of the project is to bring children and young adults off the streets and help integrate them into society and Christian life.

With the collaboration of the Church of Christ in the Congo of North Kivu, the young people received special training for their program. They gathered the necessary tools to teach those on the street a trade: styling hair for men and women.

The young adults also taught the street children “how to live in peace,” said Claver Kahasa, president of the youth of the Church of Christ in Congo in North Kivu.

The peace initiative offers young people alternatives to begging and stealing. Wanya said the program would help many street children in and around Goma.

“By introducing them to small jobs, (they can) finally forget about their past life,” he said.

Since the initiative began, the group has worked with 58 young people ages 16 to 19 (40 men and 18 women) said Jolie Shabani, a young adult from The United Methodist Church in Goma.

The training lasts one month. The teenagers also learn about the Bible and some have joined The United Methodist Church as part of the evangelization campaign.

Once a street child in Goma, Thierry Muhindo, 17, is now a hairdresser.

“The United Methodist Church, via the youth department, has given me a hope of life. It is a charitable act that I will never forget.”

Muhindo said without the Peace Club’s help he would likely have ended up a thief.

Louise Kashere, 17, was abandoned four years ago by her parents in Walikale and was raped while living on the street. Today, she looks forward to the future, she said, because “I have just found an occupation in this Kivu Youth Peace Club.”

Thanks to the program, Kashere is no longer homeless. She said she would continue to pray in The United Methodist Church of Goma in the intercession ministry.

Wanya encouraged any person of goodwill to help the young people of Kivu and expressed hope that the hairdressing initiative could expand to other vocations.

Bishop Gabriel Yemba Unda, Eastern Congo Episcopal Area, said he would lobby for integrating the youth into society because doing so is critical to the church’s future.

The youth group plans to expand the program to other regions, including Rurtshuru, Uvira, Fizi and Bunyakiri.

“We will continue to mentor young people,” said Germain Mupasa, who initiated the Peace Club.