We are supporting vulnerable children living on the streets of Kisumu by reuniting them with their families and reintegrating them into mainstream school.
Helping children off the streets and into schools
Kisumu is the third largest city in Kenya, and is home to a growing population of street children — estimated to number almost 1,000. Most of these children come from the Western province, where traditional cultural beliefs, poverty and neglect are all significant push factors that tempt children to a life on the streets.
“Street children are stigmatized as thieves, beggars, mad and dirty… but really they are just scared.”
Philip Nyangara, Outreach worker, Kisumu, April 2012
Street children are regularly the target of further abuse, such as rape by older children or labour exploitation. More recently, there has been a huge rise of human trafficking in East Africa and vulnerable street children, without the protection of a family network, are an easy target.
What we’re doing
Reuniting children with their family network
State run orphanages are often miserable, dangerous places to house vulnerable children. We look to provide sustainable, alternative systems of care. We aim to reunite street children with their families within three months of them being separated, thus limiting the damaging psychological impact of residential care. This process is supported by rigorous family counselling services to ensure that the reasons the child ran away in the first place are properly addressed. The process is carefully managed with the child’s well-being and participation at the heart of all decision making.
Getting street children back into school
It is important to recognise how difficult it can be for street children to adapt to formal education. Many have lived tough, chaotic lives and have never experienced the routine and self-discipline that most children take for granted. Our temporary shelter provides an environment where they are able to interact with other children and learn basic social skills like earning and giving trust and respect. This helps develop a sense of stability and builds self-esteem in children who have up until now been treated as almost worthless.
All children residing at the shelter are enrolled into informal education classes which provide a stepping stone towards re-joining a mainstream school once they are living within the community again. Watch Juliana tell her story.
Supporting families to protect and care for their children
If the children ran away (or were kicked out) because their parents were too poor to care for them properly – then just sending them back home isn’t a sustainable solution. Similarly if the child ran away to escape abuse then it may well be in their best interests to re-home them with other extended family members instead.
Strengthening and supporting their family and community networks is the key to providing long-term and sustainable help to these children. Having to rely on us for an income or an education isn’t the answer and fosters an unhealthy dependency on us.
We provide start-up materials to enable parents or guardians to establish their own small businesses. With support from our family counsellors, single parents can also understand their rights more fully and can make contact with their estranged partner to request financial support to care for their children. All of these activities seek to prevent exploitative work practices — like sending children to beg for money or work in makeshift factories — which can encourage children to leave for the streets.