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 Children  Kenya Project #11009

Reintegrate Street-Connected Children in Kitale

by Child Rescue Kenya
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Reintegrate Street-Connected Children in Kitale
Reintegrate Street-Connected Children in Kitale
Reintegrate Street-Connected Children in Kitale
Reintegrate Street-Connected Children in Kitale
Reintegrate Street-Connected Children in Kitale
Reintegrate Street-Connected Children in Kitale
Reintegrate Street-Connected Children in Kitale
Reintegrate Street-Connected Children in Kitale
Reintegrate Street-Connected Children in Kitale
Reintegrate Street-Connected Children in Kitale
Reintegrate Street-Connected Children in Kitale
Reintegrate Street-Connected Children in Kitale
Reintegrate Street-Connected Children in Kitale
Reintegrate Street-Connected Children in Kitale
Reintegrate Street-Connected Children in Kitale
Reintegrate Street-Connected Children in Kitale
Reintegrate Street-Connected Children in Kitale
Reintegrate Street-Connected Children in Kitale
Reintegrate Street-Connected Children in Kitale
Reintegrate Street-Connected Children in Kitale
Reintegrate Street-Connected Children in Kitale
Reintegrate Street-Connected Children in Kitale
Reintegrate Street-Connected Children in Kitale
Reintegrate Street-Connected Children in Kitale
Reintegrate Street-Connected Children in Kitale
Reintegrate Street-Connected Children in Kitale
Reintegrate Street-Connected Children in Kitale
Reintegrate Street-Connected Children in Kitale
Reintegrate Street-Connected Children in Kitale
Reintegrate Street-Connected Children in Kitale
Reintegrate Street-Connected Children in Kitale
Reintegrate Street-Connected Children in Kitale
Reintegrate Street-Connected Children in Kitale

That dreaded word 'coronavirus'.  We all hoped it wouldn't get this far.  We all hoped a cure, a vaccine, a faster prevention campaign would happen.  But, we are not going to be spared.  These are trying times for everyone, everywhere.  Some have more than others.  Some have nothing at all. This virus does not discriminate. So, we have to find ways to keep our work going, to encourage people, to 'lower the curve'.

To be fair, the Kenyan government took more rapid and more decisive action than many others.  As soon as the first case arrived, they closed down the borders to all except returning citizens and residents who were all told to self-isolate.  Schools were closed and people told to avoid mass gatherings and to isolate if they felt illl.  We have more cases now but, a week after this action was taken, we are still in single digits - so far! 

Our small town of Kitale had its first suspected case announced on the news last night - a Kenyan student who had returned from the USA.  Until now, perhaps, we have still been able to have our heads in the sand to some extent, but now this deadly visitor has reached our own town.

We took action a week ago to enable the majority of our staff to work from home or to use phone calls to conduct social work as much as possible.  We told our kids on the street that we would be maintaining our drop in centre on an emergency basis only, and that they now needed to go home or to friends or relatives and avoid the town centre and crowds, and we would assist in getting them there.  Most took heed.  Our social workers are urging families to stay home or to stay with relatives in rural environments if they possibly can.  They are urging them to maintain distance from people, teaching how to cough and sneeze to avoid spreading any contagion, the importance of hand washing and the importance of avoiding contact with those who are elderly or have compromised immunity.   To some degree, this crisis is helping us reintegrate children and youths faster but, sadly, that is a difficult situation to maintain as they are going home to no schools being open, household food supplies being affected by panic buyig, household income being affected by many lose their income. 

We work in a country where there is no welfare state,no unemployment benefit, no free healthcare, nothing to offset financial ruin or hunger for those who need it most.  The government is not likely to step in and pay wages in endangered industries.  Tourism is this country's lifeblood and hotels, restaurants, tourist attractions have closed and staff have been laid off, unpaid, indefinitely.  In towns that do not rely on tourism, anyone involved in the travel, retail and entertainment business has seen their income drop.  Those in the casual labour sector are still managing to keep their heads above water to some degree but soon the lack of money available to those who have lost their jobs, will filter down to them.  Schools are closed indefinitely and those children, without enough food on the table, with pressures at home, will start to come back to Kitale's streets.  We are trying to help with extra food baskets for those in need and suggestions on how to cope, assisting people to get to family in safe areas etc.

Our work goes on.  We need your help to keep families safe and with food on their table. This virus is not going to stop us doing what we need to do - we will just do things differently! Please help!  

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IDP camp housing over 300 people
IDP camp housing over 300 people

It seems that no matter how hard we work trying to make a dent in the numbers of children on the streets of Kitale, there is always some nasty event lurking around the corner to boost them again.  In 2019 those events were natural disasters in the rural areas close by.  These included two incidences of flooding in the areas to the north of us. A few months ago, the Turkana region was impacted by serious floods.  In recent weeks, there has been serious flooding caused by record rainfall levels,and deadly landslides in the West Pokot region.  The epicentre of this tragedy is only 2 hours north of Kitale town. Over 60 people were killed and hundreds displaced by floodwaters and landslides that swept away entire houses, sent boulders crashing through school buildings, killed livestock and destroyed farms.  One emergency camp is currently home to 300 people,some of whom have not only lost their homes and possessions, but have lost relatives and children.  One lady lost 7 of her 8 children, one lost all 3 of her children. 

We have visited this disaster zone - no easy feat as two of the bridges on the main roads were swept away by floodwaters.  Aid efforts have been thus hampered.  We sent in a truck of aid which we managed to source in local villages to get around the road problems and to keep costs low.  We are sending in trauma counsellors.  We have taken lists of children from those families worst affected and will be sponsoring as many as we can help in a safe boarding school.  Two of the local schools remain ruined from landslides. While the government have to play their part rehousing these families or relocating them to safer areas, we will do what we can to ensure that children can access school and not be without a roof over their heads, a hot meal and feeling they have no option but to run away to town.  In time, if such arrangements are not made, the children of flood victims will be the children we find on the streets of Kitale. 

We ask you to spare a thought and a small contribution for these families at Christmas time.  There are hundreds with nothing more than a plastic sheet over their heads and a blanket to call their own.

Landslide destroying school dormitory
Landslide destroying school dormitory
Landslide burying a village
Landslide burying a village
Flood damage to main road
Flood damage to main road
Infrastructure damage hampers aid efforts
Infrastructure damage hampers aid efforts
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One of the youth teams with new kit
One of the youth teams with new kit

We were delighted to welcome many visitors this July/August from two UK secondary schools, Christ's Hospital and The Weald.  Each school sent a small team of youths interested in seeing what life was like on Kitale's streets and wanting to help out with the mobile school.  Each school sent a small team along - they were all overcome with emotion and a few tears were shed (even the boys) but they really enjoyed the experience!  They reported back to their colleagues who all decided they wanted to visit as well.  So, every day, we had a small team of eager youths engaging in the mobile school and football games, fun and laughter, and the more serious focus group discussions with the the children and youths that we work with on the streets.  This was not voluntourism.  Both sides had a positive experience and enjoyed engaging with each other.  

The children here were thrilled to have young people show interest in them and lose to them at football.  Three football kits were donated to youth teams who had no kind of kit or uniform whatsoever and they are so happy!  And the English school kids went home with a positive view of street children who are usually portrayed in a negative manner.  And they all went home with a positive view of our work too.  We also hope that what they experienced in that short time will have a long term impact on their view of the world and their chosen careers.

Thanks to all our visitors.  Without you raising awareness, our battle would be that much harder!

Visitors setting up the mobile school
Visitors setting up the mobile school
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Some of our social workers
Some of our social workers

Our organisation has been active in Kitale for almost 30 years and has seen many changes in the area and has responded by changing its tactics to deal with changing propulation and problems.  Our biggest change is an approach that combines a greater emphasis on prevention with emergency rescue.  We have realised that simply rescuing children and sending them home is a short term solution. We must not only empower their homes to enable them to care for those particular children, but we must empower their communities to do likewise.  We must give families tools to provide for their children in sufficient measure that those children will not need to seek out opportunities on the streets.

As we reintegrate children, we learn as much as we can about their family members and the challenges they face as well as the opportunities we may be able to help them with.  Having operated for as long as we have, has enabled us to see children that we rescued off the streets a decade ago growing up within families and then facing challenges as they transition into being young adults who want to make lives for themselves and have children of their own.  We have developed initiatives to help these youths.  We form youths between the ages of 16 and 25 into Associations - these are self-help groups of boys and girls.  A social worker meets with them weekly initially to cousel and mentor them and the meetings are minuted, saving scheme established, rules drawn up by the members etc. Our social workers teach self-esteem, budget skills, simple life skills.  Over time, the youths are enrolled in various training and business courses and opportunities while also trying to find opportunities for their Association to perhaps set up a small business in which they all have a stake.  The idea is to train and benefit the individuals while giving them the strength of a group.  In time, the group may be able to access loans and grants to help propel it forward.  In the meantime, they help and support each other emotionally.  As the members finish various vocational training courses, they are gifted with tools for their new trade or helped to set up small businesses.  The Association stays together long after the training phase and continues to provide a support network for its members.  These members are the future parents of Kitale and it is vital that they can go forward equipped to bring children into families that have a good chance of caring for them.  These are children we hope to never have to rescue from the streets as these potential parents have been helped before reaching a crisis.   

Sustainable solutions to children running away to the streets must include more preventitve measures to address problems in communities.  

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Family planting smallholding
Family planting smallholding

It’s raining! After an abnormally long dry spell, finally some rain has come our way in Kitale! This is a great relief to farmers and consumers alike as the last thing a country with a large proportion of people below the poverty line need is a drought with food shortages and high prices. As we reintegrate children to families, we are mindful of what we can do to help them find sustainable solutions to one of their major problems – that of providing food on the table. Families we work with are usually in the slum areas on the outskirts of town with no land at all, or are subsistence farming on small plots which are often not owned by them.

We have run a very effective bio-intensive agriculture program over the past ten years. This teaches families how to maximize organic crop production in a very small area, with minimal costly inputs. A family in a slum can grow some fresh vegetables in a tower garden in a sack or, with their neighbours, can plant several sacks in the grounds of a nearby school or church thus ensuring no pilfering. A smallholder can learn the best crops to grow side by side to deter pests and avoid chemicals, and how to nourish the soil without costly fertilizers.

Lack of food is one of the top three reasons for children running away from home to the streets and assurance of a full belly is one of the best motivators to get that child home again. Obviously not all families can grow their own food and these families are assisted through small business grants or training in a trade in order to be able to buy their food.

Good nutrition and adequate food supply is essential to reducing stress in the home and enabling children to attend school and concentrate on their studies. While we are getting families on their feet, we often provide a short term ‘food basket’ of essential items for a few months and, we have found that by empowering families to feed themselves, that ‘handout’ is only ever needed on a short term basis.

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Organization Information

Child Rescue Kenya

Location: Kitale, North Rift - Kenya
Website:
Project Leader:
Su Corcoran
Kitale, Kenya
$19,873 raised of $22,000 goal
 
282 donations
$2,127 to go
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