Four former street children from Burundi have brought happiness, hope and pride to the country after winning five medals at the first-ever Street Child Games in March.
Innocent, 18, winner of gold medals in the 100m hurdles and shot put competitions, said: “I am very excited that I won. I want to tell everyone that sport is very important and that you should never give up. Be strong!”
The latest update to the World Happiness Report, released last month revealed that Burundi has been named the “unhappiest country in the world”. But, despite the many problems facing the country, the boys from Team Burundi – Innocent, Armel, David and Vianney – do not seem unhappy at all.
But they know the problems of their county very well. Vianey, 18, lost his parents during the genocide when he was a child. Currently, there is a lot of corruption and violence in Burundi but Vianey also speaks positively about his country.
“One of the good things is that people in Burundi still help each other. They are part of a community and they feel like one. Together they stand strong.”
Another positive fact is that people in Burundi still can achieve their dreams.
“I got out of the streets and I am now almost finishing my study. I want to become a journalist, to give street children in Burundi a voice. Besides that, I do now what I love most: I teach children in sports and I help other children to achieve their dreams.”
Team Burundi have now returned home and continue to demand change in the way street children are negatively treated.
“We are here to fight for the rights of the street children back home. We represent our country in Rio and we are proud of that. We will make our country happy too, by bringing back some medals!”
So for Vianey, Burundi is not the unhappiest country in the world. It is the country of hope.