ISSN 1710-6931 April 22, 2011 Issue 164

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A Small but Big Difference — Eye to Eye Child Care

War, poverty, sexually transmitted disease and child abuse. These are only a few of the problems plaguing Uvira — a city set in the mid-west of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). In a land where a fair and healthy justice system is still beyond grasp, and where social construction and welfare are often bypassed in the flurry of political and economical turmoil, it is without a doubt that its children are the most in need of help and assistance.

And that is what Eye to Eye Child Care (EECC) is there for.

Founded in year 2006 by Oscar Benjamin, the EECC is a story of childhood vision being realized through sheer determination and courage. As a community-based child welfare organization, the EECC helps children in Uvira and Fizi in the DRC get off the streets, out of the slums and, most important, into school.

With the mission of providing care and counselling to affected children, the EECC is a safe haven where they can leave behind the tragedy of their lives and experience some semblance of normalcy. The EECC offers food and basic education to the children and is working with the government in mounting campaigns to combat physical and sexual abuse against children and to stop forced labour.

To Oscar Benjamin, the EECC is not a dream-come-true; it is a necessity. "As an Uvirian myself, where would I go? This is my home; these are my young brothers and sisters. I am determined to stay and help them change their lives. There is no simple answer to the complicated grim realities of living in Uvira. I should know. But what I have learnt is that any change — no matter how small, can make a huge difference to the livings of my young brothers and sisters," he says on his facebook page.

The organization currently has 44 children under its care. Its mission is to be on the frontline of assisting vulnerable children in four services as follows:

  1. Care service: Helping the children with social assistance such as paying their school fees, buying them school material, etc.
  2. Training service: Training children on sanitation, on HIV/AIDS and on international languages.
  3. Culture service: Organizing recreational activities for the children together with national/international volunteers.
  4. Legal Advice service: Assisting the children to claim their rights and get their justice in accordance to the law.

EECC has been working with a few charity bodies striving to make a difference in Uvira through the promotion of simple and sustainable solution. One of its collaborators is Practical Action. With a policy of hiring mainly local workers, EECC and Practical Action hope to overcome the problem of a discontinuation of workers' supply when foreign workers have to leave.

Holding a bachelor of education himself, Oscar couldn't stress enough the importance of education. A good education is a pre-eminent feature of a healthy society and undeniably a ticket to a brighter future, and the biggest goal of the EECC is to help its children attain this ticket.

"Ignorance is a part of daily life, particularly in rural areas," says Oscar. "But we're now striving for greater awareness of this deficit and we call for a stronger support from the international community." Oscar is working on a project to build a primary school for Uvirian children. "We have already secured a land of our own for the school, but we lack support on building it," says Oscar.

Despite the obstacles facing the EECC, Oscar and his team remain optimistic. When asked about his proudest moment in leading this organization, Oscar relates the moments where he was able to tell stories about the children to the world. He knows what it is like to take care of vulnerable children where there is no one to hear their cries and feel their pain, and it is through organizations such as RESPECT International that Oscar can have his voice heard.

"People hear us. The world hears us. Change is already happening. A small difference can make a big difference, if we believe, and if we persevere," says Oscar.

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