Kenya: new possibilities for street kids
I have been a campaigner with Save the Children UK for many years. I originally got involved because it was Save the Children who supported me first, when I was a young boy on the streets of Nairobi almost 50 years ago.
It goes without saying that I am passionate about projects that promote the wellbeing of street children. So I was excited when I got an opportunity to visit a street kids’ project in Naivasha, Kenya, on a trip organised by Save the Children in January.
Desperate fight for survival
In the recent past, Naivasha has been particularly hard hit by the AIDS epidemic, political turmoil, tribal wars, drought, and the global recession.
As a result, thousands of vulnerable children have been thrust out on to the streets in a desperate fight for survival.
Meanwhile, a flourishing horticultural industry has attracted many jobseekers and the town’s population is exploding. Many jobseekers end up in the streets. The youngest children station themselves outside shops soliciting for alms, while others forage for food on dumps.
Some kids work in a quarry just outside the town, digging stones and ballast. When I visited Naivasha, the quarry had collapsed and many people, including children, had been seriously injured. I was not able to visit because there was a police investigation under way.
A local organisation called K-NOTE (Kenya National Outreach Counselling and Training Programme) is targeting working children and those affected by HIV and AIDS.
This project identifies and trains youngsters to work as a link between the street kids and the office, and to mobilise their peers for regular peer education sessions. These sessions are mainly aimed at involving the street children in activities with other young people so they feel part of wider society.
As a result of this engagement process, two street youth have been trained as peer educators. More than 100 sessions have been held reaching 450 youngsters, and 120 have been tested for HIV.
Sports activities have enabled the kids to appreciate their connection with the rest of the community. Six youngsters have gone back to school and ten have joined rehabilitation centres.
I hope that Save the Children can support organisations like K-NOTE, which are doing such important work.
The K-NOTE project is giving hope to children like 16-year-old Kelvin Kangata.
Kevin’s mother abandoned him when he was ten. Since then, he has been through a life of “pain, frustrations and despair as no one seems to care”.
Kevin used to spend his day scavenging in the dumps around Naivasha’s hotels for scraps of food and things to sell. He started abusing drugs and became hardened by his harsh life. He became a pickpocket to get money to buy glue and food, which led to a short spell in police custody.
Happily, Kelvin was enrolled into a children’s shelter and is now attending school. He sometimes visits his friends in the street to share life experiences.
“I am cleaner, going to school and don’t worry about food,” Kevin affirms.