Our announcement this week of Chance for Childhood’s ‘coming together‘ with Glad’s House UK, also heralded a partnership with Glad’s House Kenya (GHK). As a way of introduction, I wanted to give you a brief insight into their fantastic work and the reasons why we are so excited by this partnership.
I visited GHK in late January this year as part of our partnership building journey and I left feeling truly inspired by not only their life-changing work and our shared values and approach, but by the energy and total commitment of the whole GHK team.
GHK’s journey is a personal one for its founder Fred ‘Bokey’ Achola. Bokey is a former Kenyan boxer who after retiring from the sport, was keen to give back to the community and so became a social worker. GHK started working in Mombasa in 2006 with Glad’s House UK as their founding partner, guided by their vision to empower homeless children and young people to take responsibility for their own lives, to realise their full potential and to protect them…[working] with those who society forgets, to give them hope and a positive future.
Their first programme, Papasa, used sport as a hook to engage street-connected children to better understand why they were not in school. They avoided a ‘one size fits all’ approach and worked to meet the specific needs of the child. This could range from simply providing a healthy meal to support on acquiring legal identification. Sport cuts across much of their work and through football, boxing, volleyball, basketball and golf, the children are taught the value of teamwork, collaboration and resilience, building up trust over time.
The Mobile School
Over the years, this work has evolved into four main programme areas. GHK’s Street Outreach programme sits at the heart of its history and work. It combines Bokey’s 25 years’ experience as a social worker with a very practical approach of learning on the job. The team spends a significant portion of their time just walking along the streets of Mombasa engaging children to assess the nuances of their need; an approach which flags up different and often quite complex vulnerabilities in situ, be it the need for food, clothes or psychosocial support. There is a high rate of children returning to the street, especially for those who call the streets ‘home’, so understanding why children return to the street forms part of an ongoing assessment of their vulnerabilities. They also run a mobile Street Education programme as part of their street outreach, catering or all ages.
The After-care team works with children transitioning from the streets to families, based on the growing evidence that family reintegration or foster care is the best option for most children. The same team leads on their Working with Girls programme, which supports teenage girls and young mothers on a 1-2-1 basis. The programme provides a range of services including Voluntary Counselling and Testing for HIV/AIDS, STIs testing, parenting skills, business counselling, in addition to facilitating legal registration, which can be challenging especially where there is generational street living.
Another core area of work is the Prisons programme which provides support in rehabilitation centres, annex prisons and borstals to over 350 boys. In addition to teaching life skills, they also deliver care packs. I saw first-hand the importance of GHK’s role when I visited a rehabilitation centre in Likoni. Most of the boys there are from outside of Mombasa and could be held at the centre for up to three years with no supplies, no family or support networks; no hugs, no visits. So without these care packs and support from GHK, the boys could go for years without basics such as underwear, toothbrush, toothpaste and soap.
The current Covid-19 crisis has not hindered GHK’s commitment to the children they support. Although their project activities have been suspended, they have been working closely with the Government and other stakeholders to mitigate risks for street-connected children by providing practical support and access to accurate information about the pandemic. We are pleased to confirm that we were able to support GHK in these activities with funding from our ring-fenced Covid-19 Response Fund.
Ensuring adherence to Government directives and the safety of their team, they quickly mobilised to provide soap, hand washing points, care packages and food to the most vulnerable children and families.
The diverse range of support they provide has placed GHK as one of the leading voices for the rights of street-connected children in Mombasa. GHK continues to push tirelessly for change at policy level to ensure better protection of vulnerable children who live and work on the streets of Mombasa.
Our thanks to Bokey, Liz and the GHK team for their support during our project visit.
Director of Programme Development