This month, we are featuring Joel, a 14 years old boy from Congo.
I met Joel on Feb 2015. He has big dreams. Like most kids his age, he believes he has enough talent to be a professional footballer. He thinks he can be the next Michael Essien or the next Andrew Ayew, or even better.
He believes in his talents and abilities.
I asked him why he is not at school this time of the day?
Joel is 14 and following is his story:
Joel was born in Congo, raised by his single mom. At 10, he was sent to Togo to live with his Congolese dad. Today, he is 14 and has been living in Togo for the past four years. Both Joel and his dad were happy to finally live together in a relatively stable country , get to know one another and the "honey moon" was fantastic, (in his own words ). But , unlike most honey moons that eventually transform into an everlasting love, followed by kids and a beautiful family, and the family lives happily after; his ,was a disaster. The honey moon was relatively short. Very soon, he found himself sleeping outside. He has no other family member in that country other than his dad. And of course I asked him, what he did to his dad.
Been from there, culturally, I know that kids "are always in the wrong" when it comes to disagreement between them and the adult responsible for them (or any adult whatsoever ), so naturally, I assumed that he is ( and was) the problem. Similarly,it is also, very rare to have a parent holding something against his son for such a long time. Remember? Joel is 14 but was kicked out of the house soon after his arrival, he was 10. He's been sleeping outside for the past 3 years now.
So what happened?
Joel stole money from his dad. 3000 XOF, such a huge sum of money. His dad accused him of stealing 5000 XOF, ( almost $10 !), but Joel accepted that he stole some money, but not 5000 XOF. He was kicked out of the house that very night. And he has been sleeping outside and finding his own food for the past three years. His dad is still angry at him. Joel said he took the money because food was rare in the house.
I tried talking to his dad, but nothing to do, the man is very mad at his son, over three years later.
Joel , still has a dream, that one day, he will be the next Michael Essien or Andrew Ayew, a professional footballer . But for now, he has to quit school and find a job at the local market. He makes, 500 or 1000 XOF a day , enough to survive for a day and pray that the following day will be better.
I took him to the Police with a secret hope to have his dad arrested for abuse of power, negligence and stupidity. But nothing came out of it. Joel is still sleeping outside and going to the market everyday so that he can eat.
For the mean time , his dream has to be deferred.
Following is my first. article about Joel:
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Next month, we will have a better story to share.
The air was heavy with odors of hatred
He soon will have to discover that he was not his father’s only son
It has happened before in this very house
He held in within his teeth a memory of a forgotten love
He was brought here by his Congolese only father he has never seen
He thought he will be loved for a day, a month, a year; he thought he will be loved for life
He was only twelve, ohhhhh ! He was nine when he was taken from his native Congo to Togo
To be a refugee in his father’s rented house.
Today, he is fourteen and already has on his CV four years of working experiences
He still held in within his teeth a memory of a forgotten love, a forgotten ghost smile
He is not yet an adult but he knows he has to get up and go to work, go to the market and find a daily work,
To be abused and come back home with 500 or 1000 CFA just enough to buy himself pure water in a funny shaped plastic container.
He has been my dear friend for the past 10 days or so
I took him to the Police to seek help for him, with a secret hope to have his Congolese dad arrested, for abuse, negligence and stupidity
In my world, this would have carried few years of jail time
but he knew nothing will come out of it
He was afraid to lose a day of work for nothing
He has been to the Police before, three years ago, two years ago, and last year.
He is only fourteen
He has no faith in the system, he has no faith in the adult world.
He has functioned in within the adult world for over four years
He is only fourteen and today is his birthday
I wish him well.