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Saving hundreds of street children in Tanzania

by Railway Children
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Saving hundreds of street children in Tanzania
Saving hundreds of street children in Tanzania
Saving hundreds of street children in Tanzania
Saving hundreds of street children in Tanzania
Saving hundreds of street children in Tanzania
Saving hundreds of street children in Tanzania
Saving hundreds of street children in Tanzania

Juma was just 12 years old when he arrived at the Child Help Desk in the bus terminal with a soaring temperature and uncontrollable vomiting.

He was so sick and obviously needed immediate help. He was lucky that other children living and working around the central Mwanza area knew where to take him straight away.

Without their quick thinking, and without our team being at the desk to help, the outcome for Juma could have been very different.

Juma was assigned a case worker who took him straight to hospital where he stayed for three days. They visited him every day and found out more about him. He had travelled 345km to stay with his aunt during the school holidays, but she had threatened him with violence, so he had run away – becoming sick at the same time.

When he was discharged from hospital we found Juma a placement with a short term foster family until we could trace his family. Once we had done this, we were able to visit and found the family desperate to have their son back home where they could look after him.

Thanks to support like yours, Juma is now safe and happy with his family and is working hard at school.


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When Denis was 11 his parents separated and his mother left to remarry in a different village. Denis stayed living with his father who later remarried. He was severely punished and bullied by his new step mother, to the point where he no longer felt safe at home. 

Denis thought he would be better off on his own and eventually ran away to try and survive on the streets of Mwanza.

It was a brutal existence full of violence and trauma.

Finding food and earning money was a struggle and Denis spent his days collecting and selling scrap plastic and metal or just begging from passers-by. He would often go to bed hungry and slept on benches or pavements wherever he could. One morning he was found by another organisation who sent him back home to his father.

Within a week Denis had run away again, having received the same abusive treatment from his step mother as before. As the weeks went by, this young boy was drawn into a gang lifestyle on the streets, taking drugs and regularly getting in to trouble with the police who would beat him badly. 

He lived this desperate kind of life for two years before he was eventually spotted by one of our outreach workers.

We gradually got to know him and earn his trust.

Through one-on-one sessions he was able to express his emotions and improve his self-esteem and eventually stopped using drugs and started having professional counselling.

Our family workers talked to Denis about his future and he told them that he wanted to go and live with his mother. We were able to trace her relatives and eventually tracked her down. She had no idea Denis had been on the streets or that his father was no longer caring for him so welcomed him to come home to her. 

But she was struggling financially and could not afford to send Denis to school – so, thanks to your support, we provided the uniform and books he needed and helped him get back into education.

He said: "I am so glad to return home and now feel like I belong to my family. I want to study hard and help my mother."

A few months later, we provided Denis' mum with a grant to set up her own small business. She told us this is going really well and Denis is working hard at school. Now they can have a brighter, happier future together.

Thanks to your support we can support more children like Denis in East Africa and put them on a safer, brighter path.

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Anitha Joseph is one of Railway Children’s Project Workers based in Mwanza, Tanzania. Every day she dedicates her time and expertise to helping the children forced to struggle for survival on the city’s streets. She wanted to share with you what a typical day in the life of a Project Worker looks like...

7:15am - My day starts by going to catch a bus to Nyegezi, as I do every Wednesday and Friday, to meet the children from the streets living around the bus terminal for outreach activities. These activities help me to build up relationships and develop trust with the children so we can understand their needs and support them. It is never easy catching a bus in Mwanza city, especially in the morning, but in the end, I get to my destination.

8:00am - I walk around the Nyabulogoya area where we have our regional bus terminal and where most of the children we support spend their nights. Some are still sleeping but most remember that this is the time we meet and it is also an opportunity to look out for new children who have just arrived on the streets. I am soon approached by one of the children we know, who tells me that during the night he met a new child on the streets so he brings him over to introduce him. We head off to our meeting area at a playground where other children have already gathered. They look so down because it is cold this morning, but with my fellow project officers we divide them into two teams and allow them to play football so that they can warm their bodies and be energised for the next activities. They are always so happy playing football - they just love it. I use this time to talk to the new child and try to get to know him. He tells me his name, where he comes from, his age and that he was in fifth grade at school before he ended up on the streets. I tell him about Railway Children and the work we do to ensure that him and other children on the streets are safe. My new friend tells me he has been on the streets for two days now, but he is not yet ready to explain what happened and why he is there.

9:30am - The children are now happy and active and we can have our time to talk. It is a kind of community meeting and we start with everyone sharing how they are feeling this morning. One child says he is not very well and he has been vomiting in the night so we organize a car to take him to the doctor. The rest of the children are okay so we go on to discuss our topic for the day which is about the effects of the use of drugs and the need to adhere to the laws of the country. The children are very talkative and keen to share their ideas, experience and understanding. After quite an intensive hour the children are taken to one of our community champions who is a food vendor at Nyegezi who gives them their breakfast. After breakfast the children are given hygiene materials and soap so they can bathe and wash properly.

11:30am - I finish my time with the street children and go on to see a child that I placed with a foster family last week for temporary shelter. The child opened up and shared with me information about his home and family and the home is within Mwanza City. We collect the child from the foster parent’s house and take him with us to start the process of tracing his family and working towards reintegration. We start at his school where we meet the head master and talk to him about the child, who he recognizes as his student. He tells us what he knows about the boy and is happy to give us his father’s contact details so after talking to him we are able to go and visit the child’s family. We arrange to meet the parents at home and talk to about their child’s wellbeing – they seem keen to welcome him back home and to work with Railway Children in solving the issues in their family that made the child run away, which will also prevent their other children from ending up on the streets as well. It is a very positive outcome but we need to know this work is done and the family is in a strong position before we return the boy so we arrange a second meeting and take him back to the foster placement for now.

15:30pm - I head to the Railway Children office and spend the rest of the afternoon writing up my notes and making sure all the necessary documents are in place after the day so nothing is missed in the children’s records.

17:00pm - It has been a productive day at work so I head out to catch a bus back home, which is just as hectic as it is in the morning, before my evening shift begins.

19:30pm - I am picked by a car from the office to head to the city centre with my fellow project officers for our night street work. During the night most children settle in regular places where they sleep and so it is easy to find where most of children spend the night, see if there are any dangers and help them if there are risks and they need to find another place to sleep. One group that are sleeping together for safety explain that the police have been chasing them from where they used to sleep so they are now staying in a different location. We remind them to try to adhere to the law even though they are on the streets and to avoid conflict with the police or authorities. We visit children at different bases at 11pm we are driven back to our homes safely to rest and prepare for another long day tomorrow.

Our Project Workers are only able to do what they do because of you. They are able to be on the streets every day looking out for and protecting children at risk all because of your support, thank you.


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Godfrey, a member of one of our Youth Associations
Godfrey, a member of one of our Youth Associations

Godfrey was often hungry, beaten, chased by the police and harassed by the community.

Today we want to introduce you to Godfrey, who spent five years living on the streets of Mwanza, Tanzania. We met him when he was 17, struggling with addiction and begging or stealing to survive. We invited him to join one of our Youth Associations and he started attending sessions on health, as well as learning basic life skills.

Which is exactly what Godfrey did.Godfrey thrived, enrolled on a business training course with us and graduated with a grant to buy six chickens and set up a small poultry farm. Godfrey’s business has blossomed and he now earns enough to pay rent, buy clothes, eat well and inspire others in the community too.

Now Godfrey is a role model for others on the streets, inspiring them to improve their situations. He said: 

I can’t thank you enough for the support you offered. Now I have my own room, I pay rent and have a bed, bed sheets, a cooking stove, utensils and I am respected by the local community.”

Godfrey is just one of hundreds of young people in Tanzania and around the world who has been able to leave a life on the streets behind and reach his potential, thanks to the support of people like you, thank you.

A gift of £21 is enough to pay for half a dozen chickens for a young person like Godfrey to start their own business and turn their life around for good.

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Shukrani with one of her children
Shukrani with one of her children

Thanks to your support we are able to be there for children and young people when they have no-one else to turn to. Children like Shukrani, we want to share with you her incredible story, which simply wouldn't have been possible without people like you.

Alone, hungry, beaten and abused 

Shukrani lost her father when she was just five and her mother struggled to provide for her and her siblings. Desperate and hungry she took to the streets at the age of 14. She had no choice but to earn money through sex work. Shukrani started to use drugs and alcohol, stole food and money and fought every day to survive. At 15 she found herself pregnant and was forced to marry an older, abusive man. He often made her and her baby sleep outside with no food and no covers.

Eventually Shukrani escaped from him, deciding instead to take her chances back on the streets. But this was even worse and one night she was beaten so badly she ended up in hospital for three days. The police arrested the man responsible and Shukrani slowly recovered but once out of hospital she felt completely alone with her baby, no support, and constantly in fear. Her use of drugs and alcohol worsened and she lost all hope. Luckily, that’s when we met her and our teams have been working with her for 10 years now

A decade of repair and recovery

Our teams enrolled Shukrani with our youth association, and helped her access life skills and basic education training as well as counselling and therapy to try and help her recover from her trauma. Once she had studied hard and learnt a trade and business skills, we helped her with a grant to set up her own small shop.

As Tanzania recovers from Covid and its impact, we caught up with some of the young people who have followed our youth association programme and found Shukrani to be thriving - she now supports herself and her children by selling tea and groceries at the bus terminal in Mwanza..

She pays her own rent and has even saved enough to buy some land south of Mwanza where she plans to build a house. The skills we armed Shukrani with through the youth association enabled her to survive the recent challenges and face problems with confidence and determination. She is both content and capable - a far cry from the desperate, fragile girl we met struggling to survive all those years ago. 

Thanks to you we can continue to be there for children at risk on the streets when they need us most, for as long as they need us.

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Organization Information

Railway Children

Location: Sandbach - United Kingdom
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @railwaychildren
Project Leader:
Pauline Medovnikov
Sandbach , United Kingdom
$1,961 raised of $26,613 goal
28 donations
$24,652 to go
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