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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

Usually, our regular reports tend to be about what we have been doing recently.  This one is a little different.as we want to focus on why we are so concerned about getting children off the streets - and not just children - entire street families.

Over a year ago, we expressed concern to the authorities about reports of missing children.  It appears that similar reports have been made in bigger towns like Nairobi too.  Enough concern has been expressed nationwide for journalists to get involved and the BBC Africa Eye have released a documentary called Teh Baby Stealers about babies and young children being taken from street families and mothers living on the streets.  This highlights a child trafficking issue that should terrify all of us.  The documentary from BBC Africa Eye can be found on You Tube and the link is below.  

So often, a woman living on the street going into a police station and reporting a missing child is not treated with the same respect as a woman coming from a 'real' home.  It is assumed there must be something wrong with her if she is living on the street - perhaps she has mental issues or she is a prostitute - and she is often met with derision or anger.  She is often scared to report the case as she will become the number one suspect and it will be assumed that because she is in financial need she probably either sold the child herself or it died or she killed it or she may not have any paperwork to prove there even was a child.  Street mothers are marginalised and do not get much sympathy.  In rare cases, someone might take her aside and find out the reasons she is on the street and, in doing so, discover that she is a perfectly good mother who has fallen on hard times.  The majority of mothers on the streets are there because they are from backgrounds of abject poverty and have no choice.  They may have moved from areas of drought or famine to seek work in towns.  They may be running from an abusive relationship.  They may have been raped.  They do not deserve to lose their children just because they are poor and may already have lost their home.   

Young children stolen by traffickers may be lucky enough to be placed in a wealthy household where they are a wanted baby.  However, it is just as likely that they are being used for sacrificial rites or organ harvesting and, in the case of older children, the sex trade.  

Child trafficking is a worldwide concern and there is a lot of money involved and often bribes ensure that those who should be helping prevent the problem simply turn a blind eye - or think a child is better off with its buyer than living on the streets. The amount of money Anita in this documentary was being offered for one child is the equivalent of 3 months wages for a teacher in Kenya.

There is an urgent need to get mother and child off the streets so they can be together in safety.  That is what we try to do every day - to reintegrate families, to keep families together and to keep them from lives on the streets of town where they face danger every day and every night.   We aim to help them get employment and keep a roof over their heads and to be able to lock their door at night knowing their children are safe in their beds.  Help us please. 

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We look back at our budget and plan for 2020 and don't know whether to laugh or cry!  We are used to dealing with the unexpected in Kenya - or so we thought - but by way of natural disasters in areas outside of Kitale affecting the influx of people to Kitale or possible tribal violence at election times.  We were not expecting Covid-19! 

Government restrictions severely impacted our work on the streets from mid March onwards.  Kenya went into lock-down which closed our Street Smart centre and prevented us using our mobile school.  Lock-down and curfew severely restricted our outreach work also.  However, we did manage to reintegrate a considerable number of children at the onset of lock-down.  This was somewhat rushed but at least the kids were off the streets and we could more easily work with them in their family setting rather than in a heavily-policed town centre.  We diverted our funding resources to emergency relief packs for families who suddenly found themselves with school-age children home all day and missing out on possible school feeding programmes and, even worse facing loss of income from jobs that no longer existed.  The markets were closed, non-essential businesses were closed and there were restrictions on transport.  All of this combined to severely impact the income of those working in businesses that were closed.

Kenya does not have a social welfare system and so there was no income assistance for the thousands who suddenly found themselves with no money coming in.  We have been working directly with some of the worst-affected families to ensure they at least have some food on the table.  

Like so many, we had not foreseen just how long this crisis would continue.  Four months later, the country has just opened to some extent but schools and tourism are still badly affected and many still remain unemployed.   Like so many countries, we are faced with the dilemma of opening up and easing lock-down versus climbing covid-19 cases.  We expect another lock-down to be imminent as we do not have the medical facilities to cope with vastly increased covid-19 cases and the Government has done an amazing job so far in keeping the numbers at a manageable level but the sacrifice has been the economy.

So, we continue to do our best to ensure that children at least do not go to bed hungry and that we can rescue and reintegrate children from the streets as quickly as possible to ensure they are in a safe home when the next lock-down and curfew hit us. 

We are thankful for your support through these trying times.  We will continue to try and keep as many families from the brink as we can.

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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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Organization Information

Child Rescue Kenya

Location: Kitale, North Rift - Kenya
Website:
Project Leader:
Su Corcoran
Kitale, Kenya
$22,962 raised of $22,000 goal
 
333 donations
$0 to go
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