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.
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!
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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