My name is Sadock and I’m a family worker with Railway Children in Tanzania.
I work with children who are living alone on the streets and have experienced things you couldn’t begin to imagine. My job is to find their families, take them home and make sure it is a safe and happy place where they’ll want to stay.
If I can keep the families together, I can keep the children safe because they won’t feel like they have to run back to the streets.
In my city of Mwanza alone, there are over 1,300 children surviving on the streets every day. Many have run away because they have little or no food, or they suffered violence and abuse at home. But they face even greater dangers on the streets, and I should know.
When I was 11 I was sucked into life on the streets of Mwanza
Before then I’d had a normal, happy childhood but one day my father left us and my mother had no way of supporting me and my brothers. We had no money and nothing to eat. I wanted to do something to help so I started going out on the streets during the day to find charcoal and bits of wood I could sell to restaurants for cooking with. I collected scrap metal or beer bottles too but on the days I didn’t make any money I was too ashamed to go home.
When that happened I started spending nights on the streets too. I could feel I was getting sucked into street life but I didn’t know how to stop it. I kept trying to go home so I could go back to school - but the more time I spent away, the harder it was to go back.
It was terrifying. I was forced to hang around with groups of older boys and either slept in their ghettos or in shop doorways. That was the only way I was safe from being beaten, robbed and attacked. I had to sell drugs to make money for them and gradually became part of their gang.
Most of the people I spent time with then are dead or in jail now.
I was lucky. At the end of each day I’d kick a football around with my friends. It was the only time I was happy and that kept me going. One day someone from one of Railway Children’s partners saw me playing and offered me a place in a sports academy. That’s when my life changed. They took me to a day centre and gave me a safe place to stay. I went on to play football in the Street Children World Cup and after that I stayed with them as a coach. It was the first time I had earned proper money and I saved up so I could go back to school and be reunited with my family.
I know how lucky I was and now I want to try and help other children - children like me - so I started working with Railway Children.
My first job was taking children that had been found on the streets back to their homes. Every time I did I could see all the problems that had made them run away in the first place. That was when I knew I wanted to work with the families to try and break that cycle.
Sometimes the answer is practical – we give them tools or teach them to grow crops so they can feed themselves or we help them start up a business so they can earn some money. But it can be more complicated than that. When there is violence and abuse in a family we work closely with everyone involved so they can understand and change that behaviour. If we can mend those broken relationships, so that everyone can communicate and get on better, the whole family is safer and stronger.