It’s hard not to see Les Enfants de Dieu as a place of happiness and joy. I watch 130 boys sings, dance, and play every day. Their enthusiasm and smiles are contagious. But it is easy to forget that many of them have complex pasts. Some were street boys who got into drugs and other trouble. Some were neglected or orphaned. Some were abused or witnesses to horrible things. Most suffer from some type of emotional disturbance. And every once and awhile, they are reminded of this dark past.
Perhaps the reason why I love this center so much is because for many boys, it has given them an opportunity. Any boy is free to leave the center if they want to. The powerful part is that many of them stay. They stay because they want to stay. They learn because they want to learn. And because they have seen the worst, they understand they are in a good place. The center helps make the boys, but these boys also make the center. You cannot have one without the other.
The duality of Rwanda is something I have struggled with ever since I returned in 2009. Perhaps I have been looking at it in the wrong way. Past and present are so deeply intertwined here, it is impossible to separate the two. Just as the pasts of the boys at the center have shaped them into who they are today, so too does the history of Rwanda shape the country and it’s people into what it has become. We cannot forget what has made us who we are, nor should we.