The Story of Patrick: A RDDC Student in Rwanda

Kigali, Rwanda

November 14, 2012

Ssali Joseph Eugene

“When you watch him dance, you can see he is dancing his story of change.  He respects himself and the rest of the boys respect him because of the way he takes himself.”

The RDDC program is becoming more successful in its desire to help street children through the arts.  It engages children in a physical activity with social rehabilitation, and it makes children feel worthwhile and able to do whatever they hope to do in their lives. Every child at FIDESCO (the temporary shelter where the street children live during the RDDC program) has his story, and every one of them is bearing a scar from his history. It’s hard to understand many of them;  they are unpredictable, which makes it hard to help them change their negative thinking about themselves.  They cannot see their potential in doing something or how their natural talents can be activated.

Patrick is one of the boys that we have been working with for several months.  Patrick’s father abandoned his mom, and his mom is not able to take him to school.  Since Patrick was not going to school and life was hard at home, he turned to the streets. I have been working with Patrick since he started attending the RDDC program at FIDESCO – dance and IT training. At first, I couldn’t understand this boy because he could come and just sit alone – waiting for something to start.  Whenever someone would try to talk to him, he would just look at you and say nothing in return.  He was always angry, but not lively like any other 12 year old boy would be.  He was always protective, but would never fight back whenever the other boys would try to interrupt his peace.  Instead, he would rather cry and leave because he was not used to them.

Actually, Patrick is one of the boys who has been living at FIDESCO for a long time. He never seemed to be interested in dance though.  Whenever I asked him if he liked dancing, he would say, “yes”, but his body language was always showing something contrary to what he was saying. The most interesting characteristic about Patrick: he’s slow but he’s so courageous.  He never gives up on something till he gets it right.  During our dance training, he was not as fit as some of the other boys; he was always challenged by the fact that there were some movements which he could not do.  Patrick started coming to class earlier than the others, and he would start to stretch his body and move around doing some things that he had learned by himself. One day, during our training, I gave him a “hi-5” after doing some movement.  He turned to me, and said, “I know how it looks and I know that I have not done it the way it should be, so I need to do it exactly the way I see it when you do it.”

No one ever remembered Patrick when he first joined the RDDC program, but in August this year, our Artistic Director Rebecca, came to give them more intensive training.  She taught them some choreography and she couldn’t believe that Patrick was the only boy who could do it better than anyone else in terms of expression and clear movements.  She was so impressed.  Actually, he won himself the title of “best dancer” in our class.

Today, Patrick is a very different person from the Patrick we found when we first met him.  He reflects his vision of becoming a professional dancer.  When you watch him dance, you can see he is dancing his story of change.  He can now stand out from the rest and dance alone without inhibition.  He respects himself and the rest of the boys respect him because of the way he takes himself. Not only has Patrick’s life been changed by this program, Patrick is one who we never expected to respond.  This is a big success for RDDC.


Ssali Joseph Eugene is one of the Rwandan RDDC dance instructors that leads the FIDESCO program.  He is a contemporary dancer and frequently organizes performances in Kigali.