Laughter Africa works with street children in Freetown, Sierra Leone to fulfil their aspirations and to help them to bring about positive change in their lives. Laughter Africa delivers this objective through assisting children in leaving the streets, through the following three-phased approach: 1.Outreach Work. This involves the social workers meeting the children living on the streets through day or night surveys or the mobile project. The first priority is dealing with the immediate needs of the street children. They may be hungry and need food. They may be ill or in need of medical care. They may be lonely or grieving and just need a listening ear. They may have been raped and need some... read more Laughter Africa works with street children in Freetown, Sierra Leone to fulfil their aspirations and to help them to bring about positive change in their lives. Laughter Africa delivers this objective through assisting children in leaving the streets, through the following three-phased approach: 1.Outreach Work. This involves the social workers meeting the children living on the streets through day or night surveys or the mobile project. The first priority is dealing with the immediate needs of the street children. They may be hungry and need food. They may be ill or in need of medical care. They may be lonely or grieving and just need a listening ear. They may have been raped and need someone to talk to. They may be having legal trouble with the police or judiciary and need someone to advocate on their behalf. Whatever they need, Laughter Africa is willing to provide. Whilst Laughter Africa's trained social workers will try to encourage them to leave the streets, they are not forced to do so. The outreach team launched a 'mobile project' in January 2017. The mobile project takes place five times a week from Monday to Friday from 4pm to 9pm every night. Each day, the following is provided: 1. Medical and health care. 2. Food and water. 3. Activities such as arts and crafts, cultural dance, modern dance, football and games. We also have trips out every so often. So far we have visited the Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary; Freetown Amusement Park; the Railway Museum; The Peace Museum, a trip to the bowling alley and a local beach. In November 2018, we introduced themed months at mobile. So far we have had a Harry Potter themed month, a Christmas themed month, a football themed month, a super-hero themed month, a record breakers themed month and an Easter themed month. The premise behind our mobile work is to reach out to street children who make an active choice to remain on the streets. We believe it is vital to establish trust with those children who wish to stay on the streets. Trust is strengthened through the organisation of activities on the streets. Engaging in these activities with the children allows us all to become better acquainted and strengthens the bonds of trust while moving us closer to our goal of helping children break free from street life. We are hopeful that once trust is established the street children will be willing to at least move off the streets and into the Interim Care Centre. Meeting the street children in their own environment is the crux to this work. Our hope from the mobile work is that if the street children face any challenges or difficulties while living on the streets, then they will turn to Laughter Africa for support so that we can walk alongside them. We are there for them exactly in the place where they live. If anything happens to any of the street children, we know about it almost straight away. The incentive behind the mobile project was the death of two street children, Augustine and Mohamed, who tragically died in 2016. The aim of the mobile project is to prevent any more unnecessary deaths on the streets. We hope that by having such a programme in place children like Augustine and Mohamed will get the health care that they need, instead of dying on the streets. This project is in memory of them. 2. The Interim Care Centre. The Laughter Africa Interim Care Centre is a safe place for street children to live while attempts are made to find their families. The Interim Care Centre is the next stage of their journey towards reunification with their family and finally leaving the streets behind. At the Interim Care Centre food, clothing, health care, education, counselling, support and other essentials are provided. Activities such as drama, music, sports, cultural dance, arts and crafts and cookery are also available so that the children don't get the chance to miss the streets and feel tempted to return. It gives the children a chance to clean up, rest and if they have been using drugs, allows them the opportunity to break the endless cycle of addiction before they return home. The Interim Care Centre is a place where the street children can be children and learn to laugh again. The children stay at the ICC for 6 weeks at the most. 3. Home-tracing and family reunification work. This is an integral part of Laughter Africa's approach, through which social workers trace the street children's families in the hope that the parties can be reunited. Reunification with their families is dependent on whether the family situation is safe and secure. If this is not the case, for instance if there is sexual or physical abuse known to have taken place, then an alternative long-term home will be found. Before reuniting a child with their family, we work with both parties to understand the reasons that led to the child turning to the streets in the first place. Our goal is to ensure that the child feels happier and the original issues that precipitated their move on to the streets are resolved. Once the children have returned home, Laughter Africa offers continued support and pays for their school fees and other school support until they finish their WASCE (the Sierra Leone equivalent of A-levels) or pays for vocational training - whichever option the child prefers. Social workers keep in touch with each child and their family to check on their progress and make sure that all is well. For instance, if a child is sick, we pay their medical treatment. If a child is sleeping on the floor, we would buy them a mattress. Sometimes if a family is struggling financially, we will give them some business support so that the family can set up their own business so that they can empower themselves out of their situation. If any problems arise then the staff will intervene before the child is tempted to return to the streets again. Social workers visit the children at home at least once a quarter or more often if necessary. Through its outreach work, establishment of a safe care centre and family reunification activities, Laughter Africa seeks to protect vulnerable children from the dangers of living on the streets, meet their basic health, education and nutrition needs, and ensure their long-term well being.
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