Friday marked my first day “in the field” as they call it at EDD. This is a day when one of the boys goes with a social worker to do a home visit. Most of the boys at the center have at least one surviving parent. For whatever the reason, the boys left home and were brought to the center in the hopes of a better life and more opportunities.
Many of the boys have asked Claire and I to join them on their home visit. But none have been more persistent than Bienvenue. Bienvenue (his nickname) is only eleven years old and is already sporting more grey hairs than people four times his age. He is a quiet and contemplative boy who is wise beyond his years. Bienvenue somehow ended up on the street and was placed at EDD a few years ago. When it was his turn for his first home visit, he and a social worker drove to his previous home, only to find that his mother had moved, without leaving trail to follow. Bienvenue had been asking for weeks to try and find his mother and the subject was clearly bothering him. Every time I saw him, his face was serious. His visit was postponed twice last week, and he told me more than once that he didn’t think it would happen at all.
But on Friday it finally happened and my first day in the field was devoted to tracking down Bienvenue’s mother. Bienvenue, Napo (a social worker), the driver, Claire, and myself piled into the EDD truck, determined to find some information. Our first stop was the home of a taxi driver who Bienvenue had known before. He believed that this man might have some information. This eleven-year-old boy navigated us through dirt roads and up steep paths until we finally found the house we were looking for. A woman answered the door, her son wearing a ripped and graying t-shirt, clung to her leg. She immediately recognized Bienvenue and embraced him, beckoning us inside the dimly lit house. As I sat on the couch, listening to the conversation between the social worker and the woman, I couldn’t help but stare at Bienvenue. He was looking out the window, his lips pressed tightly together. The woman told us she had not seen his mother for some time and her husband, the taxi driver did not know her whereabouts. She offered Bienvenue a place to go during the holidays and said he would always be welcome in her home.
As we left the house, I rubbed Bienvenue’s head. He immediately grabbed my hand and held it for a moment, leading me back to the truck. We had one more lead we needed to follow up on. We drove down the road to meet a schoolteacher and a former neighbor of Bienvenue’s mother. When all was said and done, they both committed to searching for more information and let is know the results. Once again, we piled in the truck and headed back towards the center. When asked how the day went, Bienvenue replied, “Bohoro bohoro” which is a saying in Kinyarwanda meaning, “slowly by slowly.” As Claire rubbed his head and I held his hand in the backseat, I felt that we had achieved something that day. Bienvenue was much more willing to offer us a smile and even rolled his eyes and called us crazy for singing loudly and dancing to the radio. Slowly by slowly, we are making progress.