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Joseph from Burundi

Joseph Balthazary

Ocupation: streetkid, Tutsi, Burundian refugee since 1995

Age 31

He was at home when the war came to his village. One evening he heard gun shots. Everybody ran, his mum and dad disappeared running away. He, 9 years old and his 7 year old brother ran to the forest. They saw many dead people in the streets. They walked crying in the streets until they saw many women and children carrying there luggage on their heads on their way to Tanzania. They joined them, begging and sharing all they had. They walked both day and night for a week, over 100 km through the forest to Kibondo refugee camp in Tanzania. They stayed seven years in the camp. They could play, eat and go to school. One meal a day. When it rained a lot it became very muddy and many fell sick in Malaria, Tyfoid and epedimies of Colera.

After a couple of years he became friends with a UN worker. They talked and played football together, he also gave Joseph food. The man asked if Joseph wanted to go to an international school in Tanzania and so he went for five years. Before the UN man went home to USA, he gave Joseph some extra money and then he left. Joseph could not afford his studies but stayed another year in the camp. Then he ran away. He worked as a farmer for his accomodation and was supposed to get paid, but the farmer who gave him the job said he would get it later. So after 6 months without salary he went to the police to get help. He got 12 USD for his half year worth of work. Many farmworks after that he only got food as a payment.

Then six years ago he came to Kigoma. This is where I meet him in the street. He is friendly and shows me where I can swim. I take a picture of him as a fishing boat with torn sails pass behind him. He is a good looking guy, and speaks good english. But he sleeps in the streets or in the beach, sometimes in abandoned houses.

He wants me to help him with driving lessons. I ask him why he is not a servent at a restaurant. He says it is corrupt. To get a job you need to pay about 20-50 USD to someone. Then you can maybe earn about 60 USD per month. So instead he wants to be independant. He can borrow or rent a motorbike for a start and earn some money. With a first salary he wants to rent a room, then get a mattress and a bed and then start his life. His other plan is to go and find a headmaster and pay them around 10 USD for a fake diploma of secondary school. Then he will go to all hotels and restaurants. If someone says yes then he just needs to place the money under his Diploma, he shows me how he would do this as he says it. The bribe would be 1/4 of the salary in general. But sometimes the bribe goes up if more people want the job.

Joseph takes me to where he lives. It's a short walk. He lives in five different places. He first takes me to his favourite spot. As we walk here we pass a guy on a motorcycle. He later tells me that this guy and some others rob him for the small money he gets carrying luggage at the railway station. They fight him over the money if he doesnt look weak. When he looks ok, then they know he has had something to eat and most probably has some money.

The place is an exterior wall with a roof for shelter, a rock to sit or stand on and some cardboard pieces. This is all his belongings. He also has a place to make fire when it is cold. But then you need wood. He tells me that he usually sleeps here on the boxes. If it rains he just steps up on the rock and puts his arms inside his shirt, then it is warmer. The growing corn in front of his home belongs to a farmer. The farmer is his friend and bank. Whenever Joseph has money, he gives it to the farmer to store it, so the other guys want take it. But if he has money in his pocket he sleeps in the busstation where there is a police.

Or in an abandoned house or if it is both rain and wind he finds shelter in this old classroom building which is partly falling down, it is next to the local garbage place.

I meet up with Christian and we ask ourselfs how the fund can assist him in a good way. So the next day we meet Joseph. We go to the internet café. We show him how to use Youtube and Google tutorials and lectures. We prepay for 30 h of internet use. He also gets some copies and scannings for future use. We get him a backpack, a notebook, penns. We get him a room or small apartment with two month rent paid to the farmers wife who he trusts.

He also gets a sum of money to use for expenses like getting a job and food for a month. Christian gives him his camping madress. He is very happy. He will surprise his brother with somewhere to sleep. A great chance to get a paid job and time for them to sit and learn about computers in the internet café for one month. He promiss to teach his brother english and whenever he can afford, he will find his brother a job too.

Me and Christian goes for a quick visit to the Livingstone memorial before Joseph helps us loading the bicycles and waves us off in the port.

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