The rescue centre was established 12 years ago to provide emergency care to children who have experienced abuse, neglect or abandonment. The goal of the centre is to create a safe space for children where they receive care and protection in the short term, while we work with government social services, other community partners and families to identify long term care options for children.
Our approach is grounded in the African custom of extended families caring for children who have lost parents. Yet, the reality on the ground particularly in Kibera makes this difficult to achieve. Extremely hard hit by poverty and HIV, which has affected extended families ability to care for children, Kibera is also unique as people have come from rural homelands to find work -- moving far away from family. This makes it difficult to find family members that actually know the child and are willing and able to care for him/her. As a result, St. Vincent's has often found itself unable to find viable, safe, long term care options for children that come under our care.
Despite this challenge, St. Vincent's still prioritizes family reunification through a more gradual process. We work to identify family members (immediate or extended) and help to build bonds between them and the child. We do this by talking with families about their ability to provide care, arranging for the child to make visits with family members during school breaks and by inviting family members to visit the child at our centre. Sometimes this leads to a child going to live with their family, with continued support from St. Vincent's (e.g., paying school fees). Most often though, the children stay living in our centre and we aim to build relationships so that when the child comes of age and leaves our care, he/she will have in place a network of support. Each step of the way, we prioritize the wellbeing of the children by doing our due diligence to assess the safety of the child during visits and by giving children a voice about visits and about their care situation.
In the packed slum of Kibera, it is quite rare for children to have the opportunity to participate in organized sports. With the help of St. Vincent's, 14 children are getting a unique chance to learn and play tennis. For the past 6 years, St. Vincent's has supported children to participate in weekly lessons with Coach Joe in Nairobi. The participating children come both from St. Vincent's Rescue Center, as well as from St. Vincent's community outreach activities. In addition to its physical benefits, the tennis program offers children the chance to have fun while acquiring confidence skills and a sense of commitment and pride all in a protected setting.
One of these tennis athletes is 12-year old, Grace, who has grown up with St. Vincent's. A graduate of our Nursery School, Grace and her family continue to receive support from St. Vincent's as part of our community outreach program. Grace lives with her mother and sister who was permanently injured several years ago in a train accident that took her left leg. With extremely limited access to resources for children with disabilities available in Kibera, Grace's mother struggles to care for her girls while simultaneously earning enough money to attend to the girls' basic needs. St. Vincent's support enables Grace to attend school and to participate in the tennis team, despite her mother's inability to pay fees.
Upon being introduced to tennis, Grace quickly developed a love for the game. She joined the tennis program from the outset and has been an active member of her team for the past six years, during which she has honed her skills in the game. In December, Grace was invited to join the team at a tournament in Mombasa, 480 km from Kibera. With St. Vincent's support, Grace was able to participate in the tournament. Toting a trophy in her hands, Grace proudly returned to St. Vincentt's following the tournament to report on her adventure and of course, to show off her trophy!
The following was written by Maureen, one of the children that St. Vincent's has supported for the past 7 years through its rescue center and community outreach programs. She wrote this in response to the question, 'Why is St. Vincent's important to you?'
I am Maureen. I came to [St. Vincent's] rescue center in 2006. I stayed for some time and my mother was called to come and pick me. I went with her. I stayed without going to school, but by bad or good luck, she passed away and St. Vincent's came to my rescue and I am really happy.
I am in Ahero Girls High School and I am going to my final year and I am really happy for the opportunity I have got from St. Vincent's. In school, I like Home Science because there is a lot of art in it. I want to study and go to the University to study law and be a lawyer by profession to help in constructing another rescue center to help children who are mistreated by their parents and relatives, and also [to help] orphans. I think this will be a good idea.
And in my life I would like to visit countries like Germany, South America, Jamaica, Spain and Netherlands. I hope my dream will come true.
Thank you to those contributing money for my school fees and for any other support to all my brothers and sisters in the rescue center.
St. Vincent's supports 20+ children and youth through its rescue center in Kibera. Your support has helped us to provide shelter, food, education and health care to children that have experienced abuse and neglect, and those orphaned as a result of AIDS. Many thanks for your continued support!
In September, St. Vincent's sent four aspiring vulnerable girls to college - an extremely rare opportunity in Kibera where just 42% of girls even reach high school. One of these deserving girls was our very own, Maureen, who has called St. Vincent’s Rescue Center her home for the past five years.
Orphaned at age 7, Maureen has been with St. Vincent’s since she attended our nursery school as a young child. This year, we are so proud that her hard work and dedication to her studies has paid off as Maureen has been accepted to the United States International University where she is studying International Relations.
A compassionate and reliable ‘big sister’ to all of the children in our rescue center, Maureen plans to pursue a career with the United Nations where she can marry her passions of working with women and children, and her dreams of one day being able to travel the world. Eventually, Maureen has her eyes set on an international diplomacy position with the government of Kenya. In addition to her studies, Maureen loves to salsa dance, read, listen to music and meet new people.
Ask Maureen about her plans for the future, her eyes immediately light up and she tells you, ‘I have been to Paris many times before in my dreams. One day I want to go for real.’
St. Vincent's has created a new microproject to help cover the tuition of Maureen and the three other girls we are supporting. Please check out the project here: https://www.globalgiving.org/microprojects/educate-and-feed-85-at-risk-kids-in-kibera-kenya/
Jayne* is a 10 year old girl from Kibera. She has been living in our Rescue Center for the past month - finally safe from the sexual violence that has become epidemic in Kibera. A recent study on violence against children in Kenya found that an overwhelming 32% of girls have experienced sexual violence.
Jayne has been the victim of multiple counts of rape. Most recently she was raped on her way to school and bravely reported the incident to a teacher, who was finally able to get her the help she needs. Sadly, Jayne experienced three previous incidents of rape inflicted by her own relatives, all of which went unreported.
We came across Jayne on a Monday afternoon in June after she was taken to a neighboring health clinic that treats sexual violence survivors. Known for the emergency care that we provide to children who have experienced rape and other abuse, the clinic called upon St. Vincent's to provide Jayne with immediate shelter. Our staff spent the day working with the child, the clinic and local government authorities and by evening, Jayne was placed under our care where she remains today.
Jayne is an incredibly sweet girl who manages to pull off a smile when she greets you. She loves coloring and playing with games and puzzles and she has already started to bond with the other children in our home. The trauma that Jayne has experienced will not soon dissipate, but for now, we can promise her a refuge where she receives ample food, shelter and care and most importantly, a place in which she can close her eyes each night knowing that she is safe.
*The name of the child in this report has been changed to protect her identity.
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