Ruffin Balifio

National Sponsorship Coordinator SOS Children's Villages in Central African Republic

Let’s have a drink

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Working for SOS Children’s Village Centrafrique for 20 years can be exhausting, mainly when the working atmosphere is not anymore what it used to be. Your spirit can be down, but it also can be bump up and wonder can happen when you look back through someone else’ eyes.

Dring! Dring! Dring!
This is an entering call from Joël[1] a former SOS young boy who is out of the SOS Children’s villages programme for a couple of years. “I would like to meet you Tonton Ruffin (Tonton is an affectionate way of Uncle), if you don’t mind!” he said. Do you know what was going on in my head at that moment? I expected him coming up with a problem to solve as our grown-ups are used to do. So an appointment was set in a nearby restaurant. While meeting, Joël took the responsibility to order two bottles. When the bartender brought the bottles, Joël told me: “Let’s have a drink Tonton! You used to tell us among many advises not to drink beers until we get a job, until we are adults; today I would like to have my first beer with you!” Isn’t it surprising?

Back in the past
While drinking, Joël took me back to the time when he was a young boy being cared for in an SOS Children’s Village. He could recall all pedagogical weekly talks we used to have on various topics like the rules we set together for a smoothly running of the youth facility, the outings, the holiday camps... What amazed me was when he pointed out an anecdote of an organised afternoon support course. “Do you recall when I questioned you if you are really educators? I did wonder how you could set up a mathematic course at 2 p.m. while we were supposed to take a nap[2]”. “Do you remember that you would exempt me only if I got better grades in maths? Wasn’t the CV director intervention, I knew, you would have punished me harshly.” he laughed on. 

Go further! You are doing great!
What I required from Joël was just working hard in mathematics and I would leave him free. Since then, Joël was very good at this subject. He never failed a class, he got brilliantly to the university and graduated in Finance and Banking. As adult, he realizes how difficult education of children is as he is father of two daughters now. During this time spend together, he took the opportunity to motivate me not to give up because what we were doing for him and the others and what we are actually doing for other children in SOS Children’s Villages is wonderful job according to him. He hopes that we will go further in our work for the needy ones and give more joy to children who need our help especially when thousands are left on the streets because of the four years ongoing crisis in the country.

Remember! The Central African Republic is going through a major crisis since 2012, making travelling to work in the country in our two SOS sites or within the town dangerous. Because of this crisis, the working conditions, the motivation, the hope for a better future might miss, discouragement may be there, but Joël encourages me to still believe that working for the children, for the children in SOS Children’s Villages is worthy. What we need is some time, to stop for having a drink and moving forward.

[1] Name changed for privacy of the young men
[2] in the Central African Republic this is a rule after eating

Ruffin Balifio

is National Sponsorship Coordinator at SOS Children's Villages in Central African Republic.

joined SOS Children's Villages 20 years ago. In love and company with children, he discovers the value of happiness through daily work. “Dear Sponsor” the children call him and that gives him the feeling of being important – as part of a puzzle which shapes the future of CAR children. Family equally gives him the same sense of dearness, belonging and sharing. It is a school for tolerance, acceptance and moreover, to learn words like: “life is easy”. Playing the four quarters of basketball, and afterwards extending it to five quarters with stories and jokes, relaxing and making meaning in life enrich him well! Growing up and working in Berberati in the south west of his country where gold, diamond, forest and agricultural activities abound is joy and despair altogether.  Children are tempted to go for money too early in life and forgo education.