Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Oct '05 Project Report

On October 12, 2005, I visited a one-stop youth resource center near the Nairobi town center in preparation for starting a children’s resource center. The center is run by the Nairobi City Council and offers the following services to youth: counseling; library services; entertainment (games, movies, television); HIV-testing; family-planning/pregnancy testing; skills training; peer education; online & onsite forum discussions; cybercafe for online research & correspondence; and referral services.

On October 13 & 19, 2005, visited Njia Yetu Rehabilitation Center, a streetchildren’s rehabilitation center in Ngara, Nairobi. There are about 11 boys (12yrs-26yrs) living at the rehab facility in Ngara and another 5 boys that the Rehab center is mentoring in prisons and police cells. The rehab center also runs a training facility at Kariorkor Social Hall for the children where they train in Tae kwondo, Karate, acrobatics and other sports activities. Njia Yetu is also trying to develop a program for strengthening family units. A social worker at Njia Yetu stated that there is a serious health problem among street children because some suffer from various diseases, e.g. STDs and various other sicknesses that are rarely diagnosed and treated. The social worker said the main method used at Njia Yetu is peer education with other youths going out to entice their fellow street children to seek rehabilitation. The outreach by former streetchildren is very effective because word spreads very fast among the street children.
The street children at Njia Yetu made the following suggestions for helping streetchildren get off the streets:
(1) skills/vocational training,
(2) taking children to school
(3) helping children engage in sports, acrobatics, and other activities that are more attractive than glue-sniffing and
(4) providing them with a place for showering, eating, exercise, etc., away from the town center.
Njia Yetu social workers identified the following weaknesses in existing rehabilitation programs in Kenya:
(1) lack of resources,
(2) lack of follow-up and supervision,
(3) lack of trained personnel,
(4) lack of a data bank for information management and
(5) lack of proper screening and placement.

On October 14, 2005, visited Thomas Barnado House, a rehabilitation home for street children that also runs a primary school, Jonathan Gloag Academy. Thomas Barnado House keeps a maximum of about 120 children at the rehabilitation home and about 100 at the primary school. The streetchildren join the home at a tender age of between 0-3 yrs. Children are brought to the center by the police, local council, and well wishers. The center has a screening process involves tracing the child’s family and identifying the child’s areas of need. The home is divided into 8 houses with approx. 11-12 children each. Each house has a mother as the overall head. There are also 7 aunties and two social workers. The home also engages in activities to raise income and work toward self-sustenance, such as: selling Christmas cards designed by the children, farming activities e.g. keeping dairy cows, poultry, flour-milling business where the maize flour is sold to Uchumi, carrying out wedding ceremonies and operating a primary school which collects fees from attendees outside the home. The home also runs a family-reunification program.

On October 16, 2005, interviewed some streetchildren randomly selected from the streets. One, and 18-year-old had just been released from Joseph Kangethe the day before. He was released because the City Council decided to release all boys over 17 yrs old and left the under 17yr-olds so they could take them to school. He said at one point at Joseph Kangethe there were over 250 children when the “jeshi” came to rescue them around July of 2005. The Jeshi refers to a band of streetchildren who stormed Joseph Kangethe to free their colleagues. He also showed me ugly scars just above his neck next to his right jaw where he was beaten/whipped by City Council askaris at Joseph Kangethe. He says he was beaten at one point when he went to visit the restroom without asking for permission. I then went to tour the Global Cinema roundabout, where most street families live. Global cinema is a big roundabout with open space almost as if in a valley. Nairobi river runs through it and there are several dwellings in the marsh around the river. The dwellings are temporary structures much like the ones found in the middle of Kibera slums. The river itself is thick with pollution. There are shirts drying on the grass next to the river and families taking baths in the river. The streetfamilies are mostly women and their little children living in the structures around the rivers. The area is also some kind of dumping ground because there are several trash sites doting the roundabout.

On October 21, 2005, visited Mathare Youth Sports Association (“MYSA”) headquarters (“HQ”). MYSA is non-political and non-religious so it can appeal to youth from all sectors of society. Its major focus is sports, i.e. soccer. Talked to a MYSA representative in charge of HIV/AIDS program. MYSA HQ is located almost 30 kilometres from the City Center in Komarock, Nairobi. The HQ itself has a gymn, an enclosed garage where MYSA’s vehicles are kept, a secretariat with almost 20 cubicles each handling different aspects of the organization, a glass shelf with several trophies and a building housing the Shoot-Back project, which is a media-wing for the organization. MYSA itself is focused on sports, i.e. soccer. It is organized into leagues in 16 areas in Nairobi alone. In each area, any youth can come up with a team and register it with MYSA. This year alone, there were 1,200 registered teams. The teams also engage in environmental cleanups.MYSA’s representative suggests the following for a streetchildren’s resource center:
(1) The streetchildren should “own” the center
(2) The center should have entertainment/recreation e.g. videogames, sports activities, etc.
(3) There should be a follow-up mechanism that ensures streetchildren who go through the center are monitored and attracted back.
(4) Whatever program the center sets up should be consistent and continuing all year round.
(5) There should also be exchange programs with other centers or entities so that the streetchildren are slowly but surely brought into regular life.
(6) There should be recognition of effort/participation so streetchildren feel proud to be a part of the initiative e.g. through scholarships, medals, certificates, awards.

Between 10/23/05 and 10/27/05, I visited Kakamega and Kisumu, Kenya.

In Kakamega, I visited a rescue center set up by the International Faith Ministry in the town of Kakamega, just a few kilometers from the City Center. The church began the rescue center after some streetboys attending its crusade became born again and had nowhere to go. The church then decided to house them in a building that was originally rented by a church member. The building looks like a 2 bedroom house with an external kitchen and a small fenced compound. Currently, there are over 30 former streetchildren in the compound ranging in age from 8-15 yrs. The church complains that the center has no resources. I also walked around Kakamega town from 6-8 p.m. to observe streetchildren and where they live on the streets. We observed about 50-100 streetchildren. The streetboys in Kakamega stay in public places and sleep on verandas near the main streets. At one point there was a group of 10 streetboys warming themselves by a fire. They said the main things they need are food and shelter and that they do not like the children’s homes because they suffer more in those places than on the streets. They would also like to go to school or to vocational training institutions.

In Kisumu, I first, went round the city observing the streetchildren. One streetboy, a 14-year-old, said he roams around Indian residential areas like most streetboys and sleeps on the verandas after paying the security guards/watchmen a small amount of money, even ksh.5/-. When I asked him why he was not living with his aunts and uncles, he began to weep and said his relatives do not want them. He went to school upto class 5 where he used to be in the top 15 of his class of approximately 60 children. After his mother died he had to drop out because of lack of fees and has been living on the streets for almost two years now.
I also met the Nyanza provincial children’s officer who is very enthusiastic about organizing a seminar on streetchildren in Kisumu. He says if the stakeholders in Kenya act in concert, they can arrest the situation just like happened in Uganda where the number of children living on the streets has been drastically reduced over the years. He says children’s homes or centers have to be better than the streets, but should not be worse than the streets.I also visited Pandpieri Catholic Children’s Center/Kisumu Urban Apostolate Programmes – Pandpieri a rehabilitation center for streetchildren. Pandpieri is a faith-based rehabilitation program that engages in skills-training for streetchildren. The children are first taken to a reception center for a couple of months then screened and placed in an appropriate skills-training program.