Roots and wings

Roots and wings | World Vision Blog

Zebra is a former child soldier who benefited from World Vision’s Rebound project. Today, he has his own carpentry business and is able to lead a normal life. (©2012 Gilbertine Julie Uwimana/World Vision)

A few months ago, World Vision communicator Jeremie Olivier traveled to the Democratic Republic of the Congo and met children benefiting from World Vision’s Rebound project, which helps rehabilitate former child soldiers and prostitutes. Read about his encounter with Zawadi and how this teenager is finding her wings through mechanics.


As I met with children in the northeast Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) last fall while on a short-term assignment, a quote kept coming to mind: “There are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give to our children. One of these is roots, the other wings.” This quote from Henry Ward Beecher, a clergyman known for supporting the abolition of slavery, is particularly meaningful to me as a parent.

I learned that 17-year-old Zawadi was born into extreme poverty, with barely enough food to eat and unable to afford a single piece of clothing. Without an education, she was looking for a way to get out of her situation.

Four years ago, Zawadi faced a choice no child should ever be faced with. She could continue living this life of misery, or join one of the too-many “maison d’intolérance” (houses of intolerance) in her hometown of Beni, where she would become a prostitute and earn some money.

Without any roots or wings to fly, she left home on a path that would bring her through three years of hell. Who could blame her? Certainly not I, sitting speechless and moved as I listened to her story told with a surprising strength. Her hope of a better life quickly disappeared before her eyes as drugs, abuse, depravation, and suffering entered into her daily life.

One year ago, World Vision workers met Zawadi and convinced her to join the Rebound project, which helps rehabilitate former prostitutes and former child soldiers. After much psychosocial therapy, Zawadi told me she has been able to heal most of her wounds.

When it was time to decide which basic skills she wanted to learn through the program, Zawadi chose the hardest way again — but this time with a better hope that it would truly improve her life. She wanted to learn mechanics, a trade usually reserved for men. In doing that work, she found her true passion. In fact, the garage owner teaching these children told me that she was by far the hardest working student he had seen.

Roots and wings | World Vision Blog


Zawadi decided to give her life another chance. With World Vision’s support, she is starting to put down roots. She also wants to fly, dreaming that one day she will own a garage and teach young survivors of exploitation about mechanics.

I believe that when children start to dream again, they allow their wings to grow. I also believe that it is our duty, as adults, to look around for children without any roots or wings and provide them with the opportunity to one day learn to fly.

You, too, can help provide a child with the opportunity to one day learn to fly. Consider sponsoring a child in the Democratic Republic of Congo today!

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