The Kivu Assistance and Reintegration Centre is a non-governmental organisation based in Goma, North Kivu, in the eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The area has been a centre of armed conflict and humanitarian crisis for 15 years running and, even as the rest of the DRC has stabilised and emerged from civil and regional war, the Kivus—as well as other provinces in the east—have still not fully stabilised.
In this area young men have been drawn into armed groups and many have had little education, training or life skills other than warfare. After they are demobilised—some of them ex-child soldiers—they often lack the skills and opportunities to reintegrate successfully to their communities and drift to the cities, or are waiting for reintegration assistance from the government and UN to begin; such reintegration assistance has been stalled for some time and the next round of this programme is not expected to commence until July 2011. Others have exhausted their reintegration assistance but have not successfully re-established themselves to civilian life.
The demobilised are not the only participants in our programmes, but they have come to be the most prominent group. When young men, who come to us as street youths or those identified in the community as being in “difficult situations”, we work to provide education, training, job placements and socialisation designed to help them develop a skill or profession that will allow them to earn a livelihood and more easily rejoin their communities.
The Centre originally developed through the work of an association of translators, interpreters and trainers in Goma who gathered to address professional and operational issues, including skills development as well as security and the other challenges of operating in the Kivus. As the group undertook computer and language training for its own members, it became apparent that there is a high demand for such training from “at risk” youth and the Centre began admitting them into its courses, paying their tuition from staff donations. They now account for over 80% of our students. In 2008 we formally established ourselves as an NGO, Organisation pour la recuperatoin et la Re-education des enfants de la rue (ORRER), eventually changing our name to the Kivu Assistance and Reintegration Centre.
The Centre is supported by the work of three volunteer teachers and two computer trainers, as well as a coordinator, assistant coordinator, outreach workers and administrative staff. We are now working to expand the scope of our assistance, taking in more students and providing additional training with the ultimate aim of assisting this important but troubled group to reintegrate successfully to the communities and contribute to peace and stability in North Kivu.