A day in the life of a “street-child”

The nights are often penetratingly cold in Nairobi and without blankets or any form of shelter, the cold rain and damp ground can make a night seem excruciatingly long. The three young boys huddle up on a piece of cardboard and cover themselves with a sack and a piece of plastic on top of their frail thin bodies. Any unfamiliar noise awakens them; the constant fear of attack, robbery or what might be worse: a threat of Sodomy alarmingly lurks at every night-fall!

The boys live a semi-nomadic life, constantly haunted by thugs, watchmen and even the police; their entire existence consists of surviving through the starkest poverty, relentlessly forced to move from one place to the next, seeking shelter in abandoned buildings or empty half-roof shops in the market place during the cold Nairobi nights. The street is all they have to call “home”.

This particular night is spent under the covering of a bridge and for once they are left alone from any unwanted intrusion. The noise of the city slowly dies down and except for the occasional moaning uttered during a bad dream, all you hear is dogs barking in a distance. The three ten – eleven year old boys lay close together keeping each other warm and comforted throughout the night.

Before long, dawn breaks and their day begin. Their clothes are damp and dirty, smothered with mud, ash and feces; the stench from each of them is enough to make your stomach churn!

Bath-day today! One of them suggests as if he read my mind and they start on a 3 km hike to find a secluded outlet of the Nairobi River where they can bathe. The River is their only source of water yet after bathing in it; they often come away smelling even worse than before! Occasionally the water is so contaminated by toxic waste, acid and sewage it causes outbreaks of hives or even third- degree burns on their entire bodies.

Once the have bathed and washed their clothes they let the morning sun dry them off and lay in the tall grass waiting for the wind to dry their clothes. The bath made them giddy and they laugh and tell jokes, like any other boy their age would do – A bath can make you feel “brand new” and for a moment they forget their horrific existence, with conditions that more resemble ones of animals, than of human beings….

Finally hunger sets in and get’s the best of them; they hurry to a nearby junction where the traffic-jams consistently bring the cars to a slow stop. The boys spread out and wander from car to car begging for money. Hardly anyone gives them any; most people despise them and call them names or hurriedly close their windows and lock their doors at the mere sight of them. “It was so much easier to earn money this way a few years ago” Abdi tells me, ”Now we are often forced to steal or starve or find scraps of food in the garbage dumps…”

Noon approaches and the boys have only managed to get thirty measly Shillings between them. As they head back towards Eastlands they decide to hide the money in the soles of  Joel’s shoes (neither of the other two boys own a pair of shoes to use as a hiding spot anyway! ) out of fear of being robbed by older “street-boys” who, every day demand money in exchange for protection. “A few Shillings is enough to loose your life over, if you put up a fight” the young boys tell me!

In Eastlans they find the woman who provides them with glue. She has made a career on selling home- made glue to the street-children; a potent, thick toxic substance that helps numb their heartache and disguises their hunger. And it is cheaper than buying food, David informs me! Their cruel unlikely existence often forces these children to disguise their hunger by sniffing glue or petrol; “cause it makes you forget …”!

The signs of starvation are inherent; the boys’ bodies are frail, sickly and malnourished. Their eyes blank and distant and after a few drags on the glue-bottle their minds utterly intoxicated. They throw themselves down on the grass and fall asleep in the shade of a tree. My heart feels the burden of their sorrow as I watch them drown the memories of their traumatic pasts… Most of them have stories so dark they delivered them to the hands of the streets. Stories they never want to revisit but which they forever are unable to forget…

The early evening is spent rummaging the large garbage piles on the nearby dump; relentlessly searching for something to fill their aching bellies with, before they surrender to yet another drunken stupor caused by glue.

As the darkness of night approaches and the Nairobi traffic slowly dies down, the boys light a fire to stay warm by. Sitting there they voice their unheard dreams; dreams of a good life, of going to school, getting a job and a home – and in their hearts, the silent untold dream of being loved….

But for now their biggest worry is to find a safe place to sleep through yet another dangerous night!

This was sent to us by Life4kids one of the homes in which we support.  To visit their profile click HERE.

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