Over the many years that we have been involved in helping street connected children, we have realised that rescuing and reintegrating will always have to happen. It is not a 'sustainable' activity as we will never rescue and reintegrate every child in need as no sooner will we have done that, than another child will be on the street. It is an ongoing battle. The numbers reduce and increase driven by cycles of weather, natural disasters such as drought, school holidays etc.
Although we continue to reach out and provide rescue services, rehabilitating children and reintegrating families, a vital part of our work is preventing children running to the streets or returning to the streets. Over the years, we are becoming more and more involved in helping families to be strengthened in every sense to keep them together and try to avoid their connection to the streets. This holistic approach targets vulnerable families with a view to ensuring that they can eventually be self reliant and less dependent on others. We monitor families for several years after our initial intervention to ensure they are doing well so we can avoid them slipping back to a position that sees a child or youth returning to a life on the streets.
When we reintegrate a child, we look beyond just the child. We look at the whole family. Once we have dealt with the immediate problems that saw the child seeking the streets, we continue to work with the family. We might help short term with monthly food baskets. We help with education - this may be buying a uniform for the child or sibling or it may be talking to the teachers to understand any problems. We see if a family member can enter one of our vocational training programmes or be involved in a bio-intensive farming training course or business grant. We provide counselling services. We aim to leave a healthy family that can care for themselves.
Reintegration goes beyond simply encouraging a child to return home and solve an immediate problem. Reintegration can be a process that is ongoing for a minimum of one year, sometimes longer. And a huge part of our reintegration programme is the prevention element - doing everything we can to ensure the family stay together beyond our initial involvement. It is more costly but our success rates speak for themselves and, after all, prevention is better than cure.
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