When Senga was five years old, he and his parents fled genocide and were living on the streets. “We were alive,” Senga says, “but we often went to sleep without having had anything to eat.”
One day, he was approached by a man who told him that if he went to fight with them, he would get a chance to find a good job. He decided to leave his family and joined the rebel forces, where he was given food and was trained as a soldier. Back then, Senga explains, “I did not know how traffickers operate, or what human trafficking is.” He only saw an opportunity which he could not refuse.
After serving as a child soldier for over a decade, he finally managed to escape his traumatic ordeal when he surrendered to United Nations peacekeepers. Throughout these years, Senga says, “I was praying to make it back home alive.”
But then he found himself again living on the streets. He felt isolated and had no one to help him deal with his trauma as child soldier survivor, due to a lack of integration support. In desperation, he turned to alcohol as he hoped to escape his nightmares.
His mother, seeing what he was going through, managed to console him with lots of love and understanding. But it was through his engagement with the survivor-led organization “Footprint to Freedom” that he began to feel empowered and respected again.
Together with the founder, Malaika Oringo, in partnership with the “Soul of Rwanda” foundation he is helping with the reintegration of street children, since they can easily fall prey to traffickers. “We are reaching out to them through the circus. And we are teaching them circus acts,” he explains.
Acrobatics is a powerful tool, helping to teach children the skills of responsibility, trust, cooperation, empathy, and self-confidence, Senga says.
He also helps to empower survivors of human trafficking by providing them with entrepreneurial skills, such as teaching them how to make masks, home decorations, handbags and shoes. “Safe and sustainable self-employment is one of the most effective ways to prevent exploitation,” Senga says.
Survivors also know exactly what circumstances led to their exploitation, and most importantly, Senga says, “they can advise on the best form of reintegration support for victims”.
Senga believes that most of the support currently available for victims is gender biased. He says there is a need for governments to ensure services that are serving the needs of all victims, regardless of gender. “Because boys are not for sale either,” he concludes.