Kikongo, aged 8

Kikongo and his story are fictional but based on the real experiences of street children in East Africa with whom some of our CATT practitioners work. The reason for us using a fictional character and case study lies in the sensitive nature of our work and the vulnerability of the children accessing our trauma treatment.

Kikongo is a street child and was born on the streets of an East African city. Both his mother and father were street children too and unable to care for him. He has no idea who his parents are or of their whereabouts, as at the age of 5 he found himself alone and having to fend for himself. For Kikongo, his family are the children that sleep huddled together in the city corridors at night and beg around the market centers during the day. These children offer friendship and support to each other and many of the younger children on the street look to the older, more experienced street children for help and guidance. Unfortunately, this can often put them in very vulnerable and dangerous situations!

Often the older boys would steal money and food from Kikongo and one day when he decided to fight back he was taken into an alley way, beaten and raped by two of the older street boys. Kikongo was left lying on the ground in a very bad way. But early the next morning he had to find the strength to fight for his place in the market otherwise he’d have no chance of getting money or food from passersby. This event was not a one off for Kikongo and he spent the next few years barely surviving on the streets of a bustling city; he was consumed by fear, frequently reliving these traumatic events through nightmares, flashbacks and panic attacks. He was always looking over his shoulder on the lookout; he never felt safe and was in a constant state of anxiety.

At the age of 8 Kikongo was begging in the market place when two local volunteers approached him. After hearing he could get a change of clothes, a free meal and if there was space a bed for the night he followed them to a centre for street children. Kikongo had been given a chance to escape his dangerous life on the streets but was so traumatised by his experiences that he was unresponsive to any emotional support offered by the volunteers. He kept running back to the streets and the way of life he knew, he didn’t trust anyone. The volunteers continued to visit Kikongo on the street; they talked with him, occasionally managed to persuade him to spend a night at the centre and slowly they developed a trusting relationship. Eventually, Kikongo agreed to begin a fun and creative activity with one of the volunteers that would help him process what had happened to him and feel more positive about his life. After finishing the CATT process, taking no more than a couple of weeks of regular sessions with the volunteer, he expressed feeling that it was now possible for him to begin rebuilding his life. His awful memories of the street no longer paralysed him with fear, instead he felt empowered to move forward. Those awful things had still happened but he wasn’t going to allow them to rule his life anymore!