Jean-Pierre’s reintegration

Tricked into fighting, Jean-Pierre, 17, is now back home with his family in Burundi.

Photography and social change
4 min readSep 6, 2016


“I was tricked. I felt so bad inside,” Jean-Pierre [NAME CHANGED] said. “This man had lied and told me that he would give me a good honourable job. I thought about my family and I was afraid that I would never see them again.”

Charged with involvement in armed groups and imprisoned, Jean-Pierre is now living in his community again.

© UNICEF/UN010826/Prinsloo

“We were held alongside adults and it was very difficult. They wanted us to drink and to take drugs. We had to work out how to avoid them,” Jean-Pierre said.

Through UNICEF support, he’s now safe at home, and has received a school uniform and books as part of a special reintegration pack.

© UNICEF/UN010840/Prinsloo

‘I want to start a new life in school. I thought I would never see my friends again and I am very happy to go back to school,” says the teenager — who was among 58 children arrested and detained in July 2015.

UNICEF and partners have also provided a three-year scholarship for each child.

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“Sometimes at night I think about the children who were with me ” Jean-Pierre said. “I feel very afraid and I am really sad that so many things changed in my life, and there are so many people I have lost, and so much time….”

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“Being in school gives me the chance to become someone new. It is like I have been cleansed of my history and my new life is like a dream,” he continues.

His reintegration also includes psychosocial support for himself, as well as for his family.

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Jean-Pierre eats lunch at home.

“We only ate once a day,” he said, recalling his time in the central prison. “We had beans and cassava flour and corn and rice. I cooked,” he said of his time spent training with weapons.

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About his future, Jean-Pierre says “I want to catch up with the friends I had before I left — they are now in the tenth grade and I am in the seventh.… I want to study to have a diploma and get a job. I want to be a doctor to help others. I have hope because I’m doing well [in] school.”

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“I prayed a lot to forget during that time,” speaking of his time spent in the forest, training to fight. “Prayer was the only thing that gave me peace,” said Jean-Pierre, holding his Bible, “I was so happy to return to my home.”

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In his district, Jean-Pierre gets ready for a football match. After UNICEF pressed to move the boys from an adult prison to a re-education centre — one of two recently set up with UNICEF support — the children gained access to basic services, non-formal education and recreation activities.

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And the children receive visits from a specialist social worker once or twice a week in their communities.

“I still play football now for the school team. Football is my thing. I like playing with my friends and keeping out of trouble.”

© UNICEF/UN010830/Prinsloo

“I was very happy when I could see my friends and family. I can say that I feel ‘reintegrated’ now. I feel comfortable in my family and in the community and I meet with my social worker regularly.”

Jean-Pierre and his mother, at home.



Photography and social change

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