There are thousands of young people living on the streets and in shelters in Kinshasa. Back in 2011, the Children’s Radio Foundation, a non-profit organisation using radio to empower youth across Africa, launched their Voice of a Child project in Kinshasa, D.R.C. It’s a radio station run by 30 young people in the city, giving a voice to children and teens in a community that (until then) had refused to listen to them.
The project’s co-ordinator Bob Yala, a former journalist in the country, joined Voice of a Child when he realised that other charities in the area did not understand the intricacies of this phenomenon. “In extreme poverty religious sects give people hope”, says Yala. “Yet there are many charlatans in these sects, and pastors persuade families to drive their children away. It’s a heart-wrenching situation.”
“There is no real engagement from other NGOs,” he continues. “They don’t truly understand the problems on the streets.”
Even though only 30 of the young people work directly on the project, the radio reports are broadcast throughout the capital’s sprawling Gambela Market, meaning they’re heard by other street children too, giving hope to many. The broadcasts are also heard by vendors on the market, local business people, and even the families who drove their children away from their homes in the first place.
“In its attempt to spread awareness the project does work,” explains Yala. “We have seen some children reintegrated with their families.”