Building a City of Hope

You won’t find this place on a map.

The ‘City of Hope’ doesn’t have a cathedral, or a town hall. Or any roads. Or electricity or running water.

It’s a desolate area of wasteland outside Kinshasa. Most of the residents were moved there by the local authorities after floods had destroyed their previous dwellings in 2007.

They named it the ‘Cite d’Espoir’ – The 'City of Hope'. Imagine what their previous living arrangements must have been like. Our project literally laid the foundations upon which the community could build that hope.

What we did:

Built 3 youth centres

that provided a safe place for 1,250 children and young people to do a range of recreational and training activities. Each youth centre has its own income generating scheme (like selling vegetables or dried fish) that enables it to sustain itself after we’ve gone.

Provided 202 young people with vocational training

in beauty, dress-making, cookery, masonry and electronics. The courses combined theory, practical and business skills and enabled the participants to start up their own enterprises and bolster the local economy.

Formed child protection committees

which met twice a month and trained over a thousand local people in topics such as child rights. The committees identified and reported 138 cases of child abuse which were then addressed by the community. We also worked with hip hop artist Didjak Munya to raise awareness of issues such as HIV.

Celestin's story

Céléstin was 12 when he and his family were relocated to the 'City of Hope'. Previously, his parents had both had a job and he had been in school, but the government declared that the shantytown they lived in was illegal and destroyed everyone's homes.

There were no schools in the City of Hope when he arrived and he's too old to go to the Primary schools that have since been built.

With nothing to do and little future ahead of him, he became frustrated and angry and began to act violently - including towards his own family. He started hanging round with a group of other boys and taking drugs. When his younger brother began to follow his example, his parents had no choice but to throw him out.

In 2009 Céléstin came to one of the youth centres we built at the City of Hope and started making use of the counseling service. “The social worker spent a lot of time talking to me about my problems and encouraging me to get involved in activities at the youth centre. She showed me that some people do care about the children here”.

The next year he enrolled in the hairdressing course run by War Child and, with the help of the social worker, he stopped taking drugs.

Céléstin graduated with a nationally recognised qualification and attended our small business and entrepreneurship training courses. He recently opened his own salon so he can support all his younger siblings to complete their schooling, and now employs 8 other fellow students.

I have completely changed since War Child came here. I value my life.

My relationship with my family has really improved and I contribute and help at home. I have gained so much from War Child.”
Celestin