This post comes from two of our Postulants, Beatrice and Edna. Postulants are in their first two years of formation to become sisters. Our African Postulate is in Kisumu, Kenya.
We minister in a rehabilitation Centre located in Pandipierri, a section of Kisumu, Kenya. It rehabilitates children from the street who after three months are integrated back into their families. The center provides an informal education and the children from impoverished families in the community around are also invited to attend. It provides food, security, clothing, counseling and it helps the children trace their families.
Being an informal education centre, we have many different activities to engage the children. For instance during the weekdays we have lessons in the mornings e.g. the computer classes library reading, discussions on topics affecting them such as human trafficking, health education and sometimes even debates. In the afternoons we have social activities like spotting activities and drama. On some occasions we show them films on educational issues. A recent one was about the post-election violence since some of the children were victims of 2007/08 violence in Kenya.
Apart from teaching we do “street walk”. This is the walking to and in the street in search of children. In our walk we need to dress simply and humbly in order to be accepted by them. We have also learned some slang Swahili (sheng). This is their language and a certain way of greeting. There are different categories of people living in the street i.e. street parents with their children, youth age 20 years and above, those around 14-19 years and the younger ones from 3-14 years of age. They group themselves according to the ages above and form their small homes whereby they come together in the evening. Each home has a name and they take care of themselves. These homes are located in certain places for example, behind the bars and the bus stations. Just an example, we have a place called Fanana with many small buildings. Between these buildings there are corridors which provide small living spaces for them and this is where many live. They even have fireplaces to cook their food.
As a centre we target children age 3-14 that can listen, change and are ready to go back to school. In meeting them, we greet and then have an interview to get to know them. Most of them lived in extremely difficult economic situations and so find the street a better home. Eventually many get involved in drugs either alcohol consumption or glue sniffing. After the interview, if they choose to join us, we invite them to come to the centre.
In our interaction we have found that there are circumstances which force the youth to the street. For example:
1. Orphans who are left to uncaring relatives.
2. Children born in the street of street parents.
3. Children kidnapped and later dumped in the street.
4. Those who receive mistreatment from parents/foster parents.
5. Those rejected by parents who fail to take their responsibilities.
6. Undisciplined children who run away from home because they don’t want to help their parents or they don’t want to go to school.