I would like to introduce you to Freddie, our charismatic guard with an infectious smile. Each morning we arrive at the front gate, sound our horn and Freddy hobbles over to allow us entry. He greets us with a simple “bon jour” or a bow, and then releases his grin. It is a nice beginning to the day.
Freddie was born and raised in Bukavu, south of Goma. His family lacked financial security, but he still describes his childhood as “very happy”. While growing up, he was a competitive boxer and excelled in karate and judo. Amazingly, his young years were not defined by poverty but by his love of sports.
Freddie moved to Goma to live with his father in 1994 and quickly settled into the occupation of security. His first assignment was to provide protection for the International Committee of the Red Cross in a refugee camp near the border of Rwanda. Each morning, he traveled by public bus to the camp and returned in the evening.
On a fateful day in 1995, Freddie settled on the bus for the arduous ride home. Locals filled the vehicle beyond maximum capacity and they set off. Soon after leaving, an explosion rocked the bus and fire erupted. Freddie lost consciousness.
He regained his senses 30 minutes later, in a Goma hospital. He had survived but was missing his legs. They were “destroyed” by the blast.
Freddie later learned that a land mine was responsible for the tragedy. Of the 190 individuals aboard the doomed bus, only four survived. He was not angry about losing his legs but thankful to God for “protecting his life”.
He has recovered and is fit both physically and emotionally. He is freely mobile on his two prosthetic legs and is viewed by no one as a “cripple”. He married in 2002 and has fathered four children with one more soon to come.
Freddie is still a happy man.