It really has been hard to be positive and hopeful this past year. However, we have a responsibility to children who have found their way to the streets of Kitale and we have simply had to be inventive and find different approaches. In March, our Street Smart centre which acts as a drop-in centre for children was closed by government directive together with all such rescue centres and schools. Our mobile school was no longer permitted to visit the streets. Both of these are key tools to meet and form bonds with children. They come to our centre and to the mobile school to find a meal, a listening ear and hope. Our counsellors use these tools to establish trust with the children and to start the process of helping them find a life away from the dangers of the streets. This is where the reunification with family starts. In the past, our successful path to helping these children consisted of meeting them through the mobile school and drop-in centre, forming trust and relationship and, when the time was right either sending the child to the longer term rescue centre at Birunda or reintegrating them home directly from the street. With the rescue centre at Birunda also closed all this time, we have had to work on direct reintegration and, to a large extent, this has worked better than we expected.
However, reintegration only works if we can help the family to provide the nurturing, healthy home environment craved by the child. In the past, assisting with food security, job training or small business grant for a parent in addition to assisting with school enrolment together with ongoing counselling has always worked wonders. A long term (2 to 3 years) monitoring with the family has ensured we can nip any problems in the bud.
The socio-economic impact of Covid 19 on the families we work with has made our work doubly difficult. So many have lost jobs and income, so many youths and children have been out of the education system due to 9 months of government closures and are frustrated with their situation. We are battling more hopelessness and hunger than ever before.
In January, it is expected that schools will reopen and, to some extent, this will help bring purpose to lives. However, it will also be a major source of anxiety to parents who have struggled financially for so many months as they are now expected to fund transport, uniforms, books, shoes, and fees for those who are in boarding schools - the government places many children in boarding schools and the children will not be allowed to return unless they have paid their fees prior to arrival and they are in full uniform. We will be facing more requests than ever before to help with these costs.
We fully expect the numbers of people with Covid 19 to increase before we see a widely available vaccine in Kenya. People travelling over the Christmas period and the back-to school impact is likely to increase numbers and it remains to be seen what impact that will have on potential school closures or further lockdowns and restrictions. We are set for at least another 3 to 6 months of extreme hardship, however, there is light at the end of the tunnel in 2021. We just need to do all we can to get through the next few months. We need your help to not only get children off the streets but to help them remain at home and to provide help for that home until they can get back on their feet. Please consider a small donation.
We hope you all had a good Christmas despite the strange times we are in and we wish you all the very best for 2021!