MissionNewswire (Aug. 6, 2013) Reuters photographer Thomas Mukoya captured a day in the life of abandoned children and at-risk youth at the Salesian-run center in the North Kivu region of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
He initially traveled to the area to cover stories related to the proposed disarmament process by the United Nations (which has yet to happen). He decided to focus his attention, and his lens, on how the instability in the region has affected children. His research brought him to the Salesian-run Don Bosco Ngangi community center in Goma.
Children are the most vulnerable when it comes to civil war and violence. Many children became abandoned by the recent fighting between the Congolese army (known as the FARDC) and the M23 rebels. Don Bosco Ngangi has become a safe haven for many of these children.
Established in 1988, it hosts more than 3,000 abandoned children and HIV/AIDS victims. Young victims with nowhere else to turn continue to arrive at the center, according to Father Piero Gavioli, the center’s director.
“Father Gavioli told me that when the rebels took over Goma in December 2012, the center was not affected,” said Mukoya. “Not a single bullet was fired towards the facility that played host to running refugees from the different villages of North Kivu. The work happening at the center is very important.”
Father Gavioli—who Mukoya described as having a “very kind personality” —gave the Reuters photographer a tour of the facility, including the kitchen where dinner was being prepared, outside where groups of older kids were playing and laughing, and a nursery where young orphans were being cared for by the Salesians.
“Immediately entering the children’s room I was touched by this 18 month old child named Imani,” said Mukoya.
The toddler, whose name translates to “Faith” in English, was playing in his baby-cot and always smiled to the camera, he added.
“The children are gorgeous and it was moving to see how much they liked visitors and were interested in my cameras,” Mukoya said. “I was inspired by the way young children lived and played together as a family.”