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.