The United Nations has defined the term ‘street children’ to include ‘any boy or girl… for whom the street in the widest sense of the word … has become his or her habitual abode and/or source of livelihood, and who is inadequately protected, supervised, or directed by responsible adults.’
In Kenya, local organisations divide street children into four categories.
The first is children who work and live on the street full-time, living in groups in temporary shelters or dark alleys.
The second category is children who work on the streets by day but go home to their families in the evenings. This category constitutes the majority of street children in the country.
The third category is children who are on the streets occasionally, such as in the evenings, weekends, and during school holidays.
The fourth category is known as ‘street families’, children whose parents are also on the streets.
Street children have to negotiate a bleak, harsh and depraved environment, fraught with all forms of danger – physical and emotional abuse and neglect; violence amongst themselves and towards others; drug taking and trafficking; sexual exploitation accompanied by a high risk of contracting STIs and HIV/AIDS; early, unplanned and uncontrolled pregnancy and parenthood; exposure to the elements; poor hygienic and sanitation conditions; starvation. Loneliness and fear are constant companions. While boys often survive by collecting garbage, and helping to load and unload market goods, girls are forced to resort to prostitution in order to get clothes or food.
In a modest yet compassionate response to this situation, the Mama Upendo children’s home offers a positive start in life to its resident children as well as to local children. At the nursery, breakfast and lunch are provided daily, and the friendships that result from the resident children sharing this time with local children breaks down the stigma when they are old enough go to school, encouraging integration.
The Mandala Trust was delighted to assist with educational training and support, and re-establishing the nursery class for the youngest children at the home. The nursery class has been furnished throughout and equipped with equipment and books. We also funded the training of two staff members who are now qualified in Early Childhood Development teaching methods which will greatly enhance the life chances of the children involved.