Programme Director Bobo-Dioulasso SOS Children's Villages in Burkina Faso
In 2014 our country’s president decided to extend his term. He wanted to change the country’s constitution to stay in power, but people in Burkina Faso did not agree and organised demonstrations. It was a revolution. Organisations of civil society and political parties organised demonstrations every day.
October 31 I was in the village when I received a phone call from a friend who is a police man. He informed me that protesters were coming to the SOS Children’s Village. They came to burn, destroy and ransack it. Indeed, the protesters were burning and sacking everything that had related to the President.
Danger due to confusion about another children’s village
Before that, the first lady had created her own children’s village, called “Children’s Village SUKA”. Therefore, people were confused and believed that our village was one of the first lady. That very day I received another call from a third person giving the same information. Before I never thought something like this would be possible.
My co-workers and mothers had also been informed. They came to my office to find out how we could solve this problem. Some were very scared and worried. The security forces were not able to protect us from this protest wave. Along with my staff, we decided to appeal to the community. At the same moment other people called us to inform us that the protesters were coming now.
I asked some co-workers to go out and inform elder persons, community leaders and honourable people about the danger. They came quickly and together we decided to put the kids to safe places by sending them to the families of the family strengthening programme and other families around the village. When children were in a safe place with mothers half of the problem was solved. What now remained was the challenge to save the installations from any destruction.
Joint efforts together with the local community
Elders, community leaders and certain other co-workers went to negotiate with the leaders of the protesters and explained that the SOS Children’s Village had nothing to do with the first lady. They also explained them that we have been there for 10 years already, that we have been supporting them with schooling, water, and medication and that we have taken care of the children.
Very worried I went to the village entrance because I did not know if negotiations would succeed. Indeed, the crowd was exited and angry. Moreover some people of the communities had been dislodged and displaced during the construction of the SOS Children’s Village and have always been against it for this reason. I saw the crowd of protesters coming with axes, knives, wood and fire. They were shouting and screaming. My heart was pounding in my chest and my throat was dry. I thought: Now that we have done what we could, my God everything is in your hands. But suddenly I saw the protesters change road by turning to continue their way. Some protesters shouted at us, "You had the chance, thank God that it is over for you."
At the moment, co-workers erupted in joy, shouting, clapping and dancing. It was such a great joy that in the evening the children returned to their families.
Aíme Eudes Yaka
is Programme Director Bobo-Dioulasso SOS Children's Villages in Burkina Faso. He joined SOS Children's Villages in 2006.
The treasure he discovers in his work is the bountiful promise of life. In spending time with children and young people, he gained invaluable rich experiences which transformed his way of seeing life, people and circumstances.
Optimism, enthusiasm and making life significant in all around him, especially in co-workers, children and young people are the pillars of satisfaction. The rare base in life where sharing becomes the pivot of happiness, is the family. It is the bastion to retire to rebuild and regain strength. He loves to enjoy listening to comedians, then they trivialize life events. Living in the city of Bobo-Dioulasso, west of Burkina Faso, is a mixture of solace and anxiety. The climate is mild, traffic is sparse, air is clean, fruits for life abound in the web of a social life characterised by a pronounced taste for hospitality. And still, religious motivated terror attacks with pronounced military presence disrupt the quiet of life.