After the TV cameras leave
British TV star Ross Kemp’s visit to a street children’s project in Eldoret, Kenya, earlier this year generated a lot of publicity and boosted fundraising massively. But what would the project look like six months on when the flood of funds had slowed to a trickle?
Luckily, the project, which supports children living on the streets of this small town in the Rift Valley, is alive and kicking. On Friday I visited the children’s centre run by ECCO, a partner of Save the Children, which is run by former street children who have now grown up. Although embarrassed to be treated like a royal visitor (songs, dances and forced to do a speech) it was great to finally meet some of our beneficiaries and learn about the centre’s many and varied activities.
As well as providing drop-in facilities with basic healthcare, informal education, play opportunities and the chance for a shower, the project also coordinates emotive reunions between street children and the families they have become separated from. I also visited the rubbish dump where the children spend their lives when not in the centre, or when not begging on the town’s streets. It’s a pretty depressing place, although, thankfully, it now has fewer children than at the height of the post-election violence in 2008.
And what was the most encouraging thing I saw at the centre? It’s working hard to change town people’s attitudes; they regularly shout at and beat the children. ECCO organised a Gala dinner for the town’s big cheeses in June where all the staff, who were former street children, showed them that the children were not ‘scum’. It was a great success.
Much like in the UK, it will only be when the general public of Kenya no longer think it’s acceptable for young children to fend for themselves on dangerous streets that children will finally be protected.