School Sisters of Notre Dame – Africa

Transforming the World through Education


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LIFE OF A STREET CHILD

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.

Postulants Beatrice and Edna

Postulants Beatrice and Edna

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Courageous Living

This story is from Sister Gloria Adoga who ministers in Notre Dame Children’s Outreach in Kenya.

Brian is seventeen years of age and a Form Two student of Oriwo Boys high school. He is the only surviving child of six children. His father died when he was barely five. The family had to move to Rongo after the death of their father because they were ejected from their home by the in-laws. Life was tolerable for them then, since the mother was strong and could fend for her children, pay rent and take care of the different family needs they had.

The mother later took ill which brought a twist in their life. She was sick on and off for about two years and grew weaker by the day and the family situation continued from bad to worse. She went to her in-laws for help but was rejected. In the end she went back to her original home where she had been born. Her mother (i.e. Brian’s maternal grandmother) being the only surviving member of the family took her and cared for her. Brian’s mother died later in 2006. The grand-mother bought a piece of land in the cemetary where she buried her daughter. It is bizarre for a person according to the traditions of the people to be buried outside her home. Brian’s other siblings were already dead at that time leaving him orphaned at that tender age of ten.

After about a year, Brian also took ill and was diagnosed positive with HIV. He and the grandmother struggled to come to terms of the fact that he carries with him the ‘deadly disease’. Thanks to counseling, he was introduced to ARV drugs early enough and he is managing alright. The grandmother was responsible for all his needs until she was in an accident that almost left her paralyzed. She still does her best but is not able to do so much because of her weaken hand muscle from the accident.
They manage with whatever they could get and have to live without meals at times. Brian hoped for better things ahead of him and continued with school in spite of his challenges. And as the saying goes “nobody knows how God finds a life for us”. Sister Rose Ngacha of Notre Dame Children’s Outreach met him during one of her visit to Ariwa School and took him in her program. His heart sang for joy as he enters this new dawn of another bright beginning.

He is an intelligent student, well behaved with lots of hope and courage. His performance on testing was excellent and he gained admission to a provincial school the same year. He was so determined to go to school that he had to sell his only cow to get some of the recommended things for entrance to school. Thanks also to our partners in Mission ‘Joining Hearts and Hands’ we were able to get him school fees. However, his health failed him as he had another battle with it. His CD4 count dropped as low as 90 which gave way to opportunistic infections like malaria, tuberculosis, diarrhea and skin infections. He grew too weak to stay in school. And so, he was able to spend only few weeks in school. In fact, he missed the first term exams and got a grade C at the end of the academic year. He is right now in form two and hopes to help people who are especially of the same status as him in the future.

Brian is very open to share his life with people not withstanding the ‘tag’ that will put on him. When we first took him to high school, we wanted to share with the school he status since he will need time away to go for his drugs but he insisted on doing it himself. This he did and he had had time to talk with other children whenever he is called to do so. He is actively involved in school and at home and continues to live in joy and hope.

One thing is sure, he is not someone who can be easily cowed by circumstances as he stood tall despite all the challenges he went through. He is forever thankful for all that he continues to receive and share.

Find out more about Notre Dame Children’s Outreach at http://www.facebook.com/notredamechildrensoutreach.com