Kawangware is a non-formal settlement ('slum') west of Nairobi with more than 600,000 inhabitants, many of whom walk long distances to work. With less than a dollar per day to live on, most struggle to survive, to feed their families and to maintain a cohesive family unit. As a result, a lot of children live on the streets in Kawangware and many spend the day scavenging in the market looking for something to eat. They do not go to school and while roaming the streets they are at risk of abuse and exploitation from older children. The problems facing these children are numerous and include domestic violence, alcohol and substance abuse, congestion within the family 'home', neglect and abuse, financial hardship and unemployment, and a lack of stimulation and learning opportunities.
The Project - Providing Food for Thought
The International Needs Real Hope Youth Community Organisation (RHYCO) Drop-in centre was established in 2014 and is there to bring hope and protection to the many street children.
Vision: Where each child has discovered a life worth living, realized their potential and become empowered through growing in a family, which is self-reliant, thereby able to make a difference in their entire community.
The centre offers services including:
Home visits to facilitate sponsorship/re-integration.
Play therapy, a library and informal schooling education.
Counseling services and social and emotional support
Linking children with rehabilitation and detox agencies.
Street work to locate children including a community awareness program using puppetry.
A feeding program and provision of clothing and showering facilities.
…and provides a safe and secure place away from the dangers of the street with stability and structure, where children are taught about caring relationships based on trust, respect and honesty, fostering confidence and the ability to make smart choices in life.
Parents are educated with the knowledge and skills to prevent their children from joining street families and helped to re-socialize and reintegrate abandoned and vulnerable children back into the family unit and community.
The project requires $1500 per month to sustain its services. It is hoped that funds raised will allow for increased opening hours and for a qualified teacher to be employed by the RHYCO team.
The RHYCO Team: The key to the success of projects like the Drop-in centre lies with gifted and passionate leaders, who build strong relationships with local people, understanding the culture and needs of the communities they serve. The RHYCO team consists of four dynamic individuals who each spent their own childhoods on the streets, in and out of care homes supported by various charitable organizations. RHYCO was born out of their experiences and inspiration and desire to reach out to others like themselves who could lead a better life if given the right help and encouragement.
"During my childhood struggles, I derived my greatest inspiration and motivation from my mother who has always instilled in us Christian values, which kept us going despite all odds. My mother could not afford to pay for our school fees whilst feeding us at the same time. I would spend many days at home and on the streets. My life on and off the streets is one that I would never wish to remember or even talk about. I am a champion for female empowerment and believe 'If you empower a girl you have empowered an entire community to break the cycle of poverty'. My wish is that a time will come when no child will have to endure the unbearable pain, torture and discrimination, in the name of 'street child'." • Martha Mwende, RHYCO Project Manager
"It is our hope that with counselling, skills teaching, and mentorship, street youth will be able to find or create work for themselves and lead more fulfilling lives. We want to see younger street children reintegrated into families, going to school, and leading meaningful lives. The Drop-in centre will help us immensely to reach these goals." • Jocelyn Muraya, Director of International Needs, Kenya
The Story of Martha:
Martha Wanjiru is a beneficiary of the school sponsorship program and is supported by ‘Ruth’ from Canada. Martha is the second born in a family of seven children, living with her mother, a single parent, and siblings in a 10X10ft shanty of iron sheets with little or limited food or clean water, poor sanitation facilities and no electricity. Martha’s mother is a casual labourer whose income barely meets the basic needs for her children. They are malnourished, shabbily dressed and often have to fend for themselves on the streets in Kawangware during the day and at night. Through the sponsorship program, Martha now attends school, the family receives food hampers and Martha’s mother has been given an opportunity to engage in an income-generating business.