Children
 Malawi
Project #16467

Hope for Street Children in Malawi

by Retrak America
Moses made a clay family in an art therapy session
Moses made a clay family in an art therapy session

Not long ago, 5-year-old Thoko came to the Chisomo drop-in center with some startling news: “Me and Moses were crossing the road and a big car hit him and the man took him to the hospital!”

The Chisomo nurse and social worker rushed to the hospital to track down 10-year-old Moses. They found him alone and semi-conscious in the public hospital, still wearing his blood-stained clothes from the accident. 

In a counseling session just the week before, the social worker had asked Moses to draw a map of his village and where his house was located (versus having a street address!).  He had told her that he has a mother and some young siblings in a very poor village.

The social worker returned to the center, found the map and quickly worked to track down his family.  Luckily Moses' map was very accurate and the social worker was able to locate the family in their thatched hut, living in very deprived circumstances.

The social worker told Moses’ mother what had happened and accompanied her to the hospital. By the end of the day, Moses was conscious and recognized his mother.   She was overwhelmed, not having seen her young son for the last few months since he left home for the street. 

Thankfully, Moses has now recovered and has decided he wants to return home.  The social workers are now also counseling his mother and working with her to see how they can help her boost her income from selling a few sweet potatoes each day, so she can better care for her children and get them to school.

We believe that all things can work together for good – even a serious accident – to reunite a family and get one more child off the street.   

The children Chisomo work with need physical, emotional and spiritual healing. The staff team is dedicated to ensuring that children like Moses get home, back to school and get a new life with hope and a future. Thank you for your support that enables us to help children like Moses.

Links:

Chisomo children march in Blantyre, Malawi
Chisomo children march in Blantyre, Malawi

Street children in Africa not only suffer the physical hardships of hunger, cold and exploitation, they also suffer from stigma. Children from Chisomo Children's Club took to the streets recently with a powerful message. Seventy children and staff marched through the center of Blantyre and its neighboring town of Limbe. Waving banners, singing and playing drums, they attracted the attention of passersby who stopped to watch them perform street drama. Their message:

 "It's not by choice that we're on the streets. We too are human beings with dignity and potential"

The children performed at places where people are used to seeing them. As they acted out their scenes, they asked the audience to give their suggestions and advice for their lives. Afterwards, one lady commented: 

"This has made me realize that these children are not pests. They are just like any other children with skills and potential".

Thank you for supporting the children at Chisomo through your generous donation to Retrak. We hope that you'll continue to suppor our vital work so that more and more children can realize their potential and discover their worth.

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Grace is 13 years old and comes from a poor rural village several hours away from Lilongwe, Malawi. She had managed to stay in school until 6th grade, but her parents had warned her that her school days were nearly over as her labor would soon be needed fulltime on the family farm.

One day a man from the city came to the village and spoke to some of the girls near the schoolyard.  He offered them steady jobs as waitresses in a city restaurant – room, board and money!

“Wow – what a chance!” she thought, and decided to take the man up on his offer; maybe she could even continue her schooling in the evenings, and send a few kwacha back to her family….

On arrival at the outskirts of the city, reality hit her: this was no restaurant, but a seedy bar selling locally brewed beer to men. And now she was trapped – literally – locked into the compound and forced to accept sexual advances from men 2 and 3 times her age.

Unbeknownst to Grace, the Chisomo staff had recently held a “Trafficking in Persons” awareness campaign in the area.   Some members of the local community heard about a new young girl at the bar and intervened, calling the Chisomo staff to help rescue Grace from her plight,  and reporting the bar owner to the police.

After this traumatic experience Grace needed much care and counsel but slowly she has recovered from her ordeal. Thankfully, after counseling from the staff, her parents accepted Grace back home.  The staff also worked with the family to look at options for boosting the family income.

Some extra goats were given to the family as a way of strengthening their economic situation and Grace is now back at school, much more wary of strangers and very grateful for the help she got from Chisomo.

Links:

Every child counts in Malawi
Every child counts in Malawi

Late last year, Retrak, with its partner Chisomo Children’s Club, performed a survey of children on the streets of Blantyre and Lilongwe, Malawi. Counting street children is a huge challenge, not least because of their mobility and distrust of adults. Yet reliable and accurate measures of street child populations can help ensure that we meet children’s needs in the right way. The communities warmly welcomed the enumerators, commenting that they were pleased that someone was trying to help these children.

During the headcount, the participants mapped out the city and highlighted the areas where they knew street children were hanging around. We then sent teams into all these areas for the count. In both Lilongwe and Blantyre we found many children in some unexpected places.  The enumerators came back full of stories from the children they interviewed. One boy had come to the streets to beg and try to earn school fees, but got lost and was desperate to get home again. A girl was brought by her auntie into town to find work, but the work was in a bar, and she ended up being abused by the patrons. Another small boy was wandering the streets alone and did not even know his village name. A group of lads survived by collecting bottles and scrap metal and sleeping under the railway bridge. One child in our survey of Lilongwe told us "There's completely no one to stay with me; my parents passed away and my other relatives refused to look after me." These are all heart-breaking stories of young lives torn apart by forces they have no control over.

Thankfully, Chisomo Children's Club is on the ground in Malawi to help children get off the streets and back with a loving family. But there are far more children on the streets than CCC has the capacity to help. That's why we urgently need help from our supporters and regular givers to reach street children with services.

Our next progress report from Malawi will discuss the final results of the enumeration study. Special thanks go to David Whitford and Joanna Wakia for their leadership with the headcount.

 

Social workers gather prior to beginning the count
Social workers gather prior to beginning the count
Highlighted areas where street children gather
Highlighted areas where street children gather

Links:

Thank you from Retrak
Thank you from Retrak

Twenty years ago, two expats living in Kampala, Uganda, started playing pick-up soccer after work with a group of street boys. Little did they know in 1994 that over the course of the next two decades, this soccer club would evolve into a highly effective and respected organization that would change the lives of thousands of vulnerable boys and girls and their families in five African countries.

Oscar was one of the hundreds of children who walked through the gates of Retrak’s Clubhouses last year, taking that first step off of the streets and into a new life. After enduring many months of hardship alone on the streets of Kampala, Oscar found love and support at the Clubhouse. Oscar was a bit older than most of the children in Retrak's program, and with the guidance of a Retrak social worker, decided to pursue vocational training in metal welding with the hope of someday living independently. Retrak supported Oscar through his training and apprenticeship and assisted him as he transitioned into independent living, supplying him with support for accommodation, food, and a few simple tools.

Oscar is living completely independently now, working as a welder and saving money to start his own welding business and hire an assistant. He is forever grateful to Retrak, saying,

“I can’t imagine where I am now compared with two years back when food and shelter were my priority concerns. Today I can afford to eat what I choose and have a rented room for my home. Retrak you mean the world to me for without you I would not have had a chance to live again”

Our work is vital to children like Oscar and to the thousands more like him who are living outside of the protection of a loving family. We wouldn’t be able to do this work without the support of donors like you. Thank you for helping make our work possible!

Oscar learned welding at a Vocational School
Oscar learned welding at a Vocational School
One of Retrak
One of Retrak's Clubhouses in Malawi
Retrak brings smiles back to kids
Retrak brings smiles back to kids' faces
Retrak children get a chance to play
Retrak children get a chance to play
GIrls in Ethiopia
GIrls in Ethiopia

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Organization Information

Retrak America

Location: Cheadle Hulme, Cheshire - United Kingdom
Website: http:/​/​www.retrak.org
Project Leader:
Joan Townsend
US Country Director
Washington, DC United States