Six-year-old Kevin came to the center just a few weeks after I arrived in Rwanda. I was still struggling with the 126 names and faces I had to learn, but I noticed him immediately; his small stature and his tattered and dirty appearance made him stand out from the other boys. He was chewing aggressively on a piece of plastic he found on the ground, his eyes darting this way and that, trying to absorb the daily chaos of the center. Knowing he wouldn’t understand English, I asked, “Bite?” (“what’s up?” in Kinyarwanda). Kevin’s serious face broke into a big grin that melted my heart.
|Little man Kevin|
But what I learned later that day was enough to break it into a million pieces. Kevin came to the center with a complicated story. His mother recently took a new husband after Kevin’s father was no longer in the picture (we are not sure if he is still alive or not). Because Kevin was not his real son, this new husband gave his wife the ultimatum that if she did not get rid of Kevin, he would kill him. Consequently, Kevin ended up at the center.
The first few weeks were a struggle. I would come to the center in the morning and I could tell that Kevin had wet the bed the night before. I can only imagine the nightmares the poor little guy was having. He would also chew on anything he could get his hands on: metal wires, sticks, beads, leaves, etc…
Kevin is the newest and youngest boy at the center. So far during my time in Rwanda, I’ve seen a few boys come to the center from off the street. Only two of them have stayed since it is the center’s policy that boys can leave if they want to. Part of the reason why I think Kevin stayed was that the other boys have taken a shine to him. They taught him how to wash himself, his clothes, and do the daily chores. And since the Live2Break crew was here, he has also taken up dancing and can successfully complete a freeze (breakdance move I fail miserably at). I love to watch him wobble out of sync with the music.
I can always count on Kevin to greet me in the morning with a smiling face. No matter what kind of day I’m having, he can always turn it around for me with his silly antics. I only hope I can return the favor.