March 6th, 2019
Real Hope for Kawangware’s street children
“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 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, whilst visiting a number of programmes 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 each also grown up on the streets of Kawangware. They recognised that they couldn’t help every child and wanted to start a programme 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 4 and 8 years old and were identified because they were at high risk of finding themselves permanently on the streets. Whilst these children had family homes (small corrugated houses) they were not attending school and their parents were struggling to feed them.
At the RHYCO centre, the kids receive medical attention (including counselling 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 programme to run the drop-in centre 5 days a week including school holidays. Money is always extremely tight, and the team rely upon immense support from their network of friends.
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 empathise with these children and walk with them on their journey is the key to the success of this programme.
The children they support have been born into extreme poverty and yet RHYCO offers real hope for the future of these children through their programme. Each child is supported at the centre for a year and will then be integrated into one of 4 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 9) has already risen to the top of her class (after only 6 months) despite not going to school for 4 years of her childhood. Seeing the transformation in Lavenda (aged 8), 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 7) 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 8), 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.
The RHYCO 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.
Written by Liz Turnbull,
International Needs Supporter and IN Family member.
On Wednesday 13th of March, RHYCO are holding a sports day for all the children at the centre. On the day, they will be taking part in lots of different activities to have fun and raise funds for the drop in centre where they currently get an education and care. To help them with their fundraising, we have teamed up with our partners at International Needs Canada to find people to sponsor their sports and help raise £2,000 for the work of RHYCO.
We are also urgently looking for sponsors for 8 children at RHYCO. Could you give a child at RHYCO real hope for the future? Join the International Needs Family today and sponsor a child at RHYCO in Nairobi, Kenya.