Centre Jeunes Kamenge (CJK)
( 2002 , Burundi )

… pour le courage et la compassion exemplaires dont ils ont fait preuve afin de surpasser les divisions ethniques durant la guerre civile, pour faire en sorte que les jeunes puissent vivre ensemble et construire un avenir pacifique.

The Centre's goal is to embrace everyone so they can discover that differences between nations, ethnic groups, religions and social or political differences can become a richness for all in everyday lives.


Le Centre Jeune Kamenge (CJK) fut fondé en 1991, avant la guerre civile, par trois missionnaires xavériens italiens (Marino Bettinsoli, Victor Ghirardi et Claudio Marano) qui rêvaient d’un endroit où les jeunes des quartiers pourraient venir et, grâce à une activité commune, apprendre à vivre ensemble dans l’amitié et le respect mutuel. En effet, en raison des difficultés socio-politiques héritées du passé, les jeunes faisaient face à de nombreux problèmes dans certains quartiers pauvres du nord de la ville de Bujumbura: alcoolisme, toxicomanie, prostitution, VIH/Sida, chômage, criminalité et désespoir général.

Les 9 ans de guerre civile au Burundi, marqués par des tensions ethniques, n’ont fait qu’amplifier le sentiment de peur parmi les citoyens, causant également énormément de décès. Pourtant, le CJK n’a pas cessé ses activités pendant les années de guerre: ses membres ont aidé à enterrer les morts et à soigner les blessés; ont soutenu les  personnes déplacées; ont distribué de la nourriture, des vêtements et des couvertures; et ont apporté une assistance sanitaire. Le travail du CJK a ainsi contribué à prouver que, malgré tout ce qui se passait, les jeunes du Burundi pouvaient construire un avenir pacifique et vivre ensemble.

Contact

Centre Jeunes Kamenge
P.O. Box 783
Bujumbura
BURUNDI

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Biography

CJK is the dream of three Italian Xaverian missionaries: Marino Bettinsoli, Victor Ghirardi and Claudio Marano.

Their determination was to find a place where the youth of the neighbourhoods (age 16-30) could come and, through shared activity, learn to live together in friendship and mutual respect.

It was founded in 1991, before the civil war, and by 1993 2,500 young people were members, attending meetings and religious events, playing sports, acting in plays, taking courses, studying various academic subjects and using the library’s 14,000 books.

In the field of education CJK’s courses cover mathematics, physics, biology, accountancy and language classes in English, French, Spanish, Arabic, German and Italian.

Training is offered in a broad mix of subjects: computing, typing, sewing, hairdressing, human rights and the Highway Code. Apart from these, there is a literacy project reaching 400 adults and adolescents each year, plus projects on AIDS, and peace and reconciliation.

These activities have been supplemented during the war years by giving help to bury the dead, caring for the wounded, supporting displaced people, distributing food, clothing and blankets, and giving health assistance.

A ‘Peace and Rehabilitation Project’ organises inter-ethnic meetings, discussion groups and other events; and a summer camp for 1,000 young people focuses on rehabilitation and community building.

The Centre has be …

CJK is the dream of three Italian Xaverian missionaries: Marino Bettinsoli, Victor Ghirardi and Claudio Marano.

Their determination was to find a place where the youth of the neighbourhoods (age 16-30) could come and, through shared activity, learn to live together in friendship and mutual respect.

It was founded in 1991, before the civil war, and by 1993 2,500 young people were members, attending meetings and religious events, playing sports, acting in plays, taking courses, studying various academic subjects and using the library’s 14,000 books.

In the field of education CJK’s courses cover mathematics, physics, biology, accountancy and language classes in English, French, Spanish, Arabic, German and Italian.

Training is offered in a broad mix of subjects: computing, typing, sewing, hairdressing, human rights and the Highway Code. Apart from these, there is a literacy project reaching 400 adults and adolescents each year, plus projects on AIDS, and peace and reconciliation.

These activities have been supplemented during the war years by giving help to bury the dead, caring for the wounded, supporting displaced people, distributing food, clothing and blankets, and giving health assistance.

A ‘Peace and Rehabilitation Project’ organises inter-ethnic meetings, discussion groups and other events; and a summer camp for 1,000 young people focuses on rehabilitation and community building.

The Centre has been attacked and looted, its management and workers threatened and some of its members killed.

Its work has continued to prove that, despite everything that goes on outside, the young people of Burundi can live together peacefully, share their lives and build a future.

In 2001, the CJK had 20,000 members, representing an increase of 10 per cent in each of the two previous years and a measure of the value attached to their programme by the young people of northern Bujumbura.

Up to 40 activities are organised each day, with 1,000 to 2,000 youths participating in these activities and using the free library. The literacy project has placed four outreach workers in each of the six neighbourhoods where it is active, to work with young people who do not come to the Centre.

CJK is also the principal co-ordinator (together with two other NGOs) of an Office for Community Associations of the Northern District, which now has 300 member groups, many of which were founded by CJK.

The Office provides them with technical support, helps with projects and fundraising, financial and other assistance with micro-projects.

It works on various programmes of peace, reconciliation and reconstruction with the local authorities, the churches, primary and secondary schools and with departments of the national government.

Each month CJK publishes a newsletter in the local language for its communities and community groups. CJK’s newsletter was started in July 2001. It is called Arc-en-Ciel (Rainbow) where young people can express their ideas.

CJK has about 50 full-time paid workers and 40 volunteer ‘associates’. Its 2001 budget was about USD 470,000, of which about 25% was spent on reconstruction in the war-ravaged Northern Quarter, and about 30% on the Centre itself. The Peace and Reconciliation project was the next largest with about 10%. Sport and music also occupy an important place in the life of the Centre.

The principal funders of CJK have been Cooperation Italienne, Cooperation Belge, and the Conference Episcopal Italienne. Other important European donors have included Misereor (Germany), the Italian Caritas, the European Community, Austrian Cooperation, the local American Embassy, Manos Unidas (Spain), Développement et Paix (Canada), and Les Amis du CJK (Italy and France).

In May 2005 CJK had 24,000 members registered.

Their new activities include

  • coordination of projects in the northern area of Bujumbura
  • coordination of religious communities (Catholics, Protestants, Muslims)
  • a drug’s project (sensitisation on the effects and psychological support).
 
 

FAQ about CJK

Asked in 2005, answered by Guillaume Harushimana

1. A new constitution and power sharing agreements – what does this mean to your work? Are you sceptical or optimistic about these recent political developments in Burundi?

The new constitution and the power sharing are two different aspects for the peace process in Burundi. Indeed, the power sharing very often arises from arrangements between the political parties and the leaders resulting from these arrangements work only for personal interests because they know very well that their power is transitory.

The most significant for us is especially the Constitution. This is because peace, justice, development, truth, tolerance, forgiveness, reconciliation have a great significance for future generations. For the CJK, we are convinced that the designation of leaders by the people themselves is ideal. And for that we are also engaged in sensitizing our young people with civic education.

Concerning the recent political developments, we are optimistic. But the most important thing must also be the international community’s support – on all levels – during and after the peace process.

2. What do you tell your younger members about the civil war? Do they listen to you – or to their parents, who might tell them something different?

The young people know very well the misdeeds of the war. With all the luggage that we provided to our young members on the humans rights level, we hope they will have a humane future. However, we continue our work on mutual respect, non-violence and justice. According to our young members, the experiment of the war gave lessons to everyone.

3. What do you do if a member of CJK takes drugs or gets involved in crimes or ethnic conflict?

Drug, crimes or ethnic conflicts were factors that affected Burundi and particularly young people. With recent political developments, we hardly have the problems connected to ethnic conflicts anymore. Rather, we have started to engage in fighting against drugs while setting up a new project “projet Drogue”. It is about sensitization on bad consequences of drugs on all levels.

4. Why do you welcome the young people of other religions (protestants, muslims) whereas you are under the authority of the Catholic Diocese of Bujumbura?

There are people who did not yet understand the goal of the CJK. Each one should know that the CJK is a social project under the authority of the Catholic Church (Diocese of Bujumbura) but its goal is to get people to live together despite the differences. To get people living in mutual respect. And for us at CJK, differences are a true source of richness.

5. What effect has the Right Livelihood Award had your work?

The fact of being one of the RLA recipients was important for the recognition of our work on the international level. And for the moment, the RLA Foundation is one of our great references for those who do not know us.