Poverty is one of the main factors driving children to the streets in Kenya and Tanzania, the East African countries we work in. Many children also run away to escape from extreme violence at the hands of parents and authority figures.
It’s estimated that there are 5 million orphans in Tanzania and Kenya.
Struggling to survive
Children who live on the streets of East Africa are at risk of abuse, violence, and exploitation. Rape and sexual violence is a common occurance, and girls are particulalry vulnerable. Alone, hungry and with no support or protection, the situation is often worse than it was at home.
Reaching them first
Our street workers work day and night to make contact with children at the earliest opportunity, aiming to gain the trust of children before an abuser doesand encouraging them to consider alternatives to life on the streets.
Through short-term care children can access counselling and, if possible and appropriate, given the opportunity to consider a return home and enrolment back into education.
Sometimes it's difficult to trace a child's family because, due to their age or the length of time they've been away from home, they can't remember where they lived. However, by collaborating with police and our local partners, and using technologies such as Google Earth, we've successfully returned many children to their families and helped them attend school.
When a child has returned home we support them and their family, helping them to make their situation work so that the child doesn't run away, or isn't made to leave, again.
In complex cases we provide a supportive relationship for the child, but also the mother and other family members and stick with them as they work through their issues and begin to find healthier ways of communicating and interacting with each other.
During this time we encourage the wider community to form a support network for the family that remains once our involvement comes to an end. Poverty is one of the main factors for children migrating to the streets. We support a range of services designed to give the families of children who wish to return home the opportunity to fight poverty and make a sustained change to their lives.
Street associations and long-term care
For some children returning home is not possible. We work with agencies locally to look for long term care placements including some pilot foster placements. For older children and youth our pioneering programme in Nairobi helps set up 'street associations'.
This initiative transforms the lives of gangs of street youths by teaching them skills and showing them a real alternative to life on the streets.
Our street workers go onto the streets, getting to know children and identifying groups they could work with. These groups meet regularly, create their own codes of conduct and choose their own leaders. The Association becomes their support group and a way of looking out for one another and others.
Workshops help members learn how to run their groups, give them life skills, help them deal with drugs, drink and crime, and eventually the result is self sufficient, confident young people who are able to support themselves and take opportunities that simply weren't there for them before.
It's a uniquely powerful approach that is having a huge and lasting impact on children on the streets. Already through the Associations we have directly helped save more than 5,000 children from a life of violence and they in turn have helped many more.
Not the end of the story...
Because the issue is so vast, we can’t reach every child who needs our help. To reach as many children as possible we work with the people who spend time with children before and after they run away within communities.Find out about Community level work