He doesn’t remember the accident. He has no recollection of having two good legs. They tell him it was an accident that caused it. He knows only that he was very young when his mother died, and that when he was far too young to remember, his father also abandoned the children.

What he does know is that 3 years ago, when he was only 9 years old, he had had enough of the abuse by relatives. He climbed in the back of a truck, and made his way into the city, hours from home, to try to make a living on his own.

I met Eric one day as I walked through a major intersection just outside Rwanda’s international bus station. This heavily trafficked area is home to many boys who at some point decided that life on their own must be better than the life they had at home. I saw Eric with two other children. The other two were fast asleep on the curb. Eric sat hoping for a few coins to get food for another day. As I saw him, and noticed he had no leg, I felt compelled to sit down with him. I plopped myself on the curb with him and his two sleeping friends.  A white girl sitting on the sidewalk with a few begging children, draws quite a large crowd. Eric and I soon found solace in a nearby café. As he sipped his orange soda, he filled me in on his story.

For the past 3 years, he has come to these same streets daily to beg. He usually is able to get between 50 and 75 cents per day. He comes to the streets by maneuvering in a crab-walk fashion with his 2 arms and one leg. He is often mocked and shunned by other children and pedestrians as they pass by. He had a wheel chair at one point, but someone stole it one night. His one source of support has been a young man who noticed Eric in the streets. A young mechanic noticed Eric, took time to get to know him, and soon began allowing Eric to sleep in his shop or at his home. This is the only friend or family Eric has had for the past 3 years.

I asked Eric how I could help him, if there was one thing I could do for him, what would he want? School? Food? Money? A bed? Eric quickly answered, “I want akaguru {a leg}. He has heard of prosthetic legs and dreams that if he had a leg, he could run and play and go to school like other children, that he would not be shunned because he is different.

I later met with Eric’s mechanic friend, and later this week, we will begin seeking out a doctor to see what can be done to help Eric. We will learn if he is a candidate for a prosthetic leg, or whether other assistance is more appropriate for him.

My day with Eric has been a strong reminder of the needs all around me here. I’m blessed to know him, and look forward to learning together if we may be able to find assistance for his physical needs.