BURUNDI: 2009 INTERNATIONAL Children's Peace Prize
2009 Children's Peace Prize: 16-Year-Old's Radio Show Brings Hope to Refugee Children
Student Voice - Baruani Ndume, 16, is the 2009 winner of the International Children's Peace Prize, presented to a child who works to further the interests of children around the world.Baruani received the prize for his work with children in a Tanzanian refugee camp where he lives after fleeing violence in his native country, the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Now 16, Baruani has lived in the refugee camp for over nine years and dedicates his time to promoting the interests of children in the camps. His radio show, called Children for Children, airs on Radio Kwizera in Tanzania, Congo, Rwanda and Burundi. Baruani uses the show to discuss the problems and challenges refugee children face in the camp. It is also a way for refugee children to make their voices heard. This interview was translated from Swahili.
1. How did you come to live in a Tanzanian refugee camp? Why did you leave the Congo?
In the beginning of my life, I lived with both parents. Unfortunately, my father died before the war. After the war emerged in the Congo, soldiers gathered my mother and I into our house and set it on fire while my mother and I were inside. I managed to escape through a door, leaving my mother alone and that's probably where she died - I don't know. As I ran, I was picked by one of the old women in the village called Mrs. Tchakubuta. I flew with her to Tanzania and we were received by a UNHCR official [United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees] and were directly sent to one of the refugee camps.
2. You have lived in the camp for over nine years. What is life like for you and other children who live in your camp?
Life in the camp is not so easy - it's very difficult. It is a concentrated camp because the population of people living there is very big. It's crowded even within the houses. You can find more than 10 people living in one very small house. Sometimes children are denied schooling or food because there are so many people. The food is provided by UNCR but sometimes the food that we are given for the whole month does not last the whole distribution cycle so sometimes we need to get food in other ways.
Life in the house I first lived in was not good. I was mistreated by a woman who took me in. She beat me and I was also denied food. I was assigned many domestic chores that prevented me from going to school.
3. How did you get an education? What was school like?
Its difficult to get a good education in the camps because the environment and the infrastructure for school is not good. Sometimes we are compelled to make our own desks and tables to sit on. There are children who find it too difficult to attend school because of chores or difficulties of living in the camps. School is too demanding for them.
4. Where did you get the idea to start a radio show for children?
We already have radio programming in the refugee camp. The radio quality and the equipment is not good but we do try. We got the idea from one of the staff from a local radio station in Tanzania - Radio Kwizera - and an organization that works for children's rights [World Vision Tanzania].
Radio Kwizera gave us power and encouraged us to be involved in children's broadcasting and radio programming. They helped collect children from the camp and we came together to discuss issues concerning children. We children now have our own radio program where we broadcast children's issues.
5. How does the show work?
We as a group of twenty children move around the camp collecting ideas from our fellow children. We normally ask them what are their concerns or problems with life in the camp - in education, in services, in food, in supplies, their protection or other abuses that are happening in the camps. We jot down what they say and then we go to the office and sit down and analyze all the problems that our fellow children talked about. Then we divide up things to cover. Then we sit down together and prepare a radio program.
For example, we ask them what are the matters or problems concerning education. They tell us and then with help from one of the staff from the local radio station, we record it. We send a tape to the radio station and then our program is aired.
6. What do you like best about working on the show?
This program is very important for refugee camps and it is very important for me. I think its very relevant and reaches big areas out side the camp. It has been showing that even parents must understand that children's rights are important and that we must advocate for them. That is the core and main objective for this program.
I like to ask adults to observe children's rights and to educate children of the camps because it is the way to a better life.
7. How do you feel now that you've won the Children's Peace Prize? What has the experience coming to the Netherlands to accept the prize been like?
I'm so happy to receive this prize. I feel really privileged because a big prize like this to go to a refugee child I think is really wonderful. I know that there are so many people in the world who could have won the prize but it is amazing that a child from a refugee camp gets it.
Also, I feel comfortable staying in Holland. It's a really good place though its sometimes cold unlike in Tanzania but luckily we have coats and jackets to cover ourselves and keep our bodies warm.
8. What are your plans for the future now? What do you hope to do?
This prize is just fuel to my fire for advocating for children's rights. I will make sure that I continue with new strength to fight for the rights of children in the camps and in the world, especially through radio programming. I wish to become one of the most famous and prominent radio and television presenters in the world.