St. Vincent’s Nursery School recently selected thirty vulnerable children in need of safety and shelter for the incoming
school year. These children range between the ages of three to seven years old and are selected by our school social
worker. New children are chosen from five surrounding villages within the slums of Kibera which include: Gatweka,
Soweto, Kianda, Kisumu ndogo and Riala. Interviews take place within the children’s homes as a part of the selection
process for admission. These interviews are conducted to provide us with useful information about children who get
admitted into our Nursery School.
All of our children live under difficult circumstances and extreme poverty within the slum settlements. Most of the
children that are accepted into our Nursery School have been orphaned, often due to HIV/AIDS, or have experienced
abuse and neglect in their homes. Fortunately, these children now have access to two nutritious meals a day, a better
education and medical attention. St. Vincent strives to give children a safe and loving environment while giving them the
hope and the determination to pursue a higher education. The new members of our Nursery School are very happy to
have found a safe learning environment where they can get the attention and the love they need.
This month, St. Vincent's launched a new microproject on Global Giving to raise funds for a holiday camp for the children we support. During the months of December and January, both children from our rescue center and children receiving scholarship support will be invited to participate in this camp, where they will learn about life skills and financial literacy. Children will discuss among their peers topics such as HIV prevention, health promotion, peer pressure, communication skills and have the chance to ask questions, and practice skills through activities like role plays and dramas. Children will be empowered with information on child protection and opportunities to practice difficult communication skills, for example, saying 'no' to sex. Financial literacy sessions will start to prepare children around topics like savings and budgeting to help prepare them for the future.
The camp is designed to equip children with the information and skills to make healthy life decisions. This is not so easy for children in Kibera who face difficult conditions that limit their ability to lead safe and healthy lives: high rates of poverty and orphanhood, HIV prevalence estimated at 17% (compared to 4% prevalence in Kenya), and soaring rates of violence against children, including alarming rates of sexual violence. With little information availed in schools and topics of HIV and reproductive health still being taboo, children often lack critical knowledge and skills that enable them to make informed decisions.
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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!
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