“Never worry about numbers. Help one person at a time and always start with the person nearest you.”
You only have to be in the company of the RHYCO (Real Hope Youth Community Outreach)
team for a short while before this quote from Mother Teresa resonates. The day to day problems facing families in the Kawangware slum of Nairobi are countless and if one was to get bogged down by the sheer numbers of people needing help, then nothing would happen.
I first met the RHYCO
team in January 2016, while visiting a number of programs supported by International Needs
partners around the world. The RHYCO
vision was still in its infancy. Bubba, John, Kevin and Martha, were meeting in a tiny corrugated office (an improvement on their original 'office' under a tree!)
brainstorming how they could best help the thousands of children growing up in the Kawangware slum. They themselves had also grown up on the streets of Kawangware. They recognized that they couldn't help every child and wanted to start a program with the most impact for vulnerable children.
Fast forward to October 2017; on my next visit, I found the team on premises at a local community centre with a small group of 24 children attending their drop-in centre. These children were aged between four and eight years old and were identified because they were at high risk of finding themselves permanently on the streets. While these children had family homes (small corrugated shacks)
they were not attending school and their parents were struggling to feed them.
At the RHYCO centre
, the kids receive medical attention (including counseling services)
, can use the washing facilities, receive three nutritious meals a day and are prepared to transition into a local school.
Through the support of International Needs sponsors and donors in Canada and the UK, the RHYCO team have been able to expand their program to run the drop-in centre five days a week including school holidays. Money is always extremely tight, and the team rely upon immense support from their network of friends.
The RHYCO Team (Bubba, John, Martha and Kevin) each also grew up on the streets of Kawangware.
So many reasons spring to mind when I am asked why I feel so passionate about supporting this team. They are without a doubt the most inspirational, selfless and devoted group of people I have ever had the privilege to meet. Bubba, John, Kevin and Martha inspire confidence in everyone who meets them. I have huge admiration for their can-do attitude in the face of so many varying obstacles. Their passion and the fact that they can empathize with these children and walk with them on their journey is the key to the success of this program.
The children they support have been born into extreme poverty and yet RHYCO
offers real hope for the future of these children through their program. Each child is supported at the centre for a year and will then be integrated into one of four local schools (where the RHYCO team act as school governors).
If the child has a sponsor, they will continue to receive support at their new school under the supervision of the RHYCO
team. By investing in the future of these children, these opportunities will better equip them to break the cycle of poverty.
During recent visits I have seen children from the original group of 24 now successfully integrated into schools and heard from one Headteacher that the children are all keen to learn and to catch up with their peers. In one case, Prudence (aged nine)
has already risen to the top of her class (after only six months)
despite not going to school for four years of her childhood. Seeing the transformation in Lavenda (aged eight)
, the little girl I sponsor, from when she first entered the centre to now sitting in the classroom at school was heart-warming. She wants to be a scientist when she grows up. My little sponsored boy, Isaac (aged seven)
has experienced things a child of his age should never have to face but is keen to go to school in May. I also jointly sponsor Paloma (aged eight)
, a little girl with cerebral palsy who has been successfully integrated into a special needs school outside of Nairobi where she boards during term time.
team offer a holistic approach. Working with families, they provide mentoring, support and where necessary other assistance. Getting alongside the parents (often single mothers)
and encouraging them to invest in the futures of their children is key to the process.
Martha once said to me -
"My wish is that a time will come when no child will have to endure that unbearable pain, torture and discrimination in the name of 'street child'."
I share her dream.
International Needs Supporter and IN family member.