Think you are thirteen and living on the streets…
Will you ‘tolerate’ some art/learning time and maybe a few inquisitive questions about youself for some free snacks and a hearty lunch?
I definitely would …
and that is exactly what being ‘Street Smart’ is all about.
Street Smart is also a program of Child Rescue Kenya that ‘sources’ the children who are to be rescued from the streets – either back to their families or in the. rescue shelter.
The objective of this program is to identify and engage the fresh kids out on the street everyday -before they can become addicted to substance and goes astray..
On my first day at Child Rescue Kenya office – I exchanged greetings with the Director and also all other colleagues working on the different programmes of the organisation.
The first natural stop was to spend the day with the Street Smart to see, feel and understand what they do at street level each day.
Let me just mention here that this is a team of three amazing ladies- who may not be doctors but are similarly saving several lives every single day……..
They will make people realize that one doesn’t always need higher education or qualifications to make a difference.
So each morning Elizabeth, Victoria and Billah (and today me tagging along) go for their morning round – walking the streets of Kitale town.
They look out for new children on the streets, talk to them and also engage old known street kids to come to the Street Smart office for a shower, free food and some activities like learning alphabets or drawing…
I don’t know how the other days go but today there was a buzz because “mgeni”- meaning the foreign visitor- aka me – is here too.
I got many many handshakes, most wanted to know my name and talk to me. Some hugged and kissed and touched my hair and wanted me to take their photos. There were a few hostile ones who didn’t like being on photos – most probably because they were high on glue sniffing.
Walking over old railway tracks, open markets and dodgy corners we got a few new additions and assurance from old ones saying they will come for lunch. we went stopped at ‘gateway hotel’ where free snacks were being distributed to street kids for free (sponsored by a Good Samaritan).
We helped out serving the kids and then walked back in SS office – (which includes a room with a long table, a bench and a few plastic chairs, another room to hold the jaricans of water bought by the organisation for showers and drinking and lastly a classroom) to do some drawings and to have lunch.
The boys were all drawing different things for me and I was seriously impressed with the latent of a few. What impressed me the most was that if any child was even slightly regular for a few days a week SS team managed to teach them to write their names and to write and read the basics…
These amazing ladies then also did some counselling on a one to one level with the new kids to write their case reports before deciding what is the best way of keeping them safe.
For instance – today there were 3 new kids who came to Kitale because their father died in December. They never knew their mother and now with their father dead – they are on the streets of Kitale looking for an unknown aunty whom they can’t name or locate. The eldest sibling who is 7 is a girl with two brothers of 6 and maybe 5!!! Such tender age to be orphaned and to have no relatives to take them back in.. SS team decided to send them to Berunda -the rescue centre- straight away.
Saying the above – it is not always a success story of rehabilitation. As an example Victoria mentioned that just last week they sent one boy home after a lot of coaxing. Only to see him back on the streets again today..:( When asked why he is not home -he said that his parents didn’t want him and told him to go away!!!
There are thousand and one stories like these.
And I wish I could share atleast some of the ones I got to know about today with you all….but truth is it is not possible in this blog.
Just like the harsh truth that even tonight hundreds of children as little as 4 or 5 years will be out on the street on their own not only in Kitale but also in many many other countries of the world.
Think about it when you go to bed today……
And if you really think hard enough…. I promise you will change at a cellular level.