Raissa Kaniza recounts a memorable encounter on a visit to Karubabi Harvest School (KHS), run by Harvest Initiatives. Her stunning photo captures a depth of experience that this boy has already confronted at such a young age:
It’s almost mid-day and the sun is already shining. Karubabi Harvest School, standing upon the hills of Muramvya, looks so vibrant. It’s break time and children are out playing and enjoying themselves. I’m distracted by teenagers playing on the basketball court. In the corner of my eye, I catch sight of a young boy staring at me, his face resting on a metal pole.
His name is Innocent, and the name couldn’t fit him better; his piercing eyes brimming with curiosity, yet full of innocence, gazing at me. Innocent is a year 2 pupil, “He was one of the quietest yet most aggressive children,” the KHS headmaster recalls.
A few months ago, during their routine home visits, KHS learned that Innocent was abandoned and adopted by a Mutwa (pygmy) woman. When he joined KHS, they assumed he was a Mutwa child, but his true identity is still unknown. His behaviour was very aggressive and alienating, so Innocent couldn’t fit in with other children. Most of the time he would keep to himself, and the little interaction he had with his peers would turn into chaos. The cause eventually became clear. Most of the time, Innocent would come to school starving and he felt rejected by the other children because he’s a Mutwa.
For the last couple of months, Innocent has been placed into two of Harvest Initiatives’ social reintegration projects: The Nutrition Project and their rehabilitation programme. These programmes have enabled his transformation. He now plays happily amongst the children and he is beginning to integrate with his school friends.