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.

YOU GO TO JAIL

Yesterday after a long day of visiting children’s homes, I was heading back to my accommodation for the night. As we approached town, our car was abruptly stopped by a police officer who came out of the darkness. Seeing me in the car he accused me of making a traffic violation and demanded that I get out of the car. I was the passenger in the car, not the driver.

I was accused of being a criminal and would have to suffer the consequences. I would be taken to the jail and held for three days after which time I would go before a judge. I apologized for any infraction I may have committed. I was then told that I was not above the law and must pay for my act. He further explained that we could settle the matter right then and there with a rather large payment of about $500. I responded that I would make any such payment and if I had broken the law I will address it with the judge. With that statement I held out my hands to be handcuffed.

At that point a second officer came out from the darkness rifle in hand. He started screaming that I was an outlaw and will be prosecuted. He then started ranting in Swahili so I have no idea what he was saying. Returning to english he demanded payment right then and there. I refused and at that point I was forced back into the car and they both got in as well and we headed for the jail. They barked some demands to the driver in Swahili and we were off. After driving a short while we were going into a very dark and isolated area. The one officer told the driver to stop the car and I was told to get out. The driver was instructed to stay in the car. They walked me into the darkness and started threatening me with their guns demanding payment. I refused. The one then asked me for my passport. I refused to provide it. I was told that everyone must produce their passport when required by the police. I explained that my passport was to protect me and I would not produce it in this situation. The other officer pulled out his papers to show that even they had their papers with them. I pointed out that they had rifles to protect their papers and I had no gun to protect mine. They then proceeded to scream in Swahili so I have no idea what they were saying but it was very intense.

Once they calmed down I explained what I was doing and asked if they had any children. They both confessed that they did. “I am here to help your children” I then explained and I am not pleased with being accosted in this manner when I am only trying to help. I noted that any money I had, was only going to be given to children in need. I could see that I was wearing them down. I went on to express appreciation for their efforts in keeping the peace and hoped that some day I might be able to assist one of their children.

I reached into my pocket and pulled out 100 shillings worth about 85 cents. I offered that as a token of my appreciation for their work. Unfortunately, that enraged them. They asked me if I thought they were crazy waving their guns in my face. I confirmed that I did not think they were but neither was I and this is all I would give. They brought me back to the car forced me in and barked again to the driver. He drove a short distance and stopped again. They told me again to get out, I did and they drove off leaving me in the dark. I then walked back to town and retired for the night. The next day was better.

Paul Christensen

NOW WE EAT WELL

Today we visited St. Dorcus Children’s home. We started supporting them two months ago and the effect has been rather dramatic. The whole disposition of the children is much brighter. They have been able to go from two meals a day to three and the meals have become more nutritious. They were also able to purchase beds for many of the children who were sleeping on the floor. The children sang songs of gratitude and one sweet young girl gave a prayer thanking God for our coming and asked God to bless and protect us for all we were doing for them. I helped her understand that the things we provide don’t really come from us but rather they are blessings from God and we are only the delivery men. It was a wonderful visit.

We Eat Together or We Hunger Together

Today I was in the slums of Nairobi having heard of another orphanage in need. As I entered the small enclosure it was abundantly clear that these children were struggling. I first met with the man who, along with wife, cares for the 48 children in the centre. Their home is a small room within the cluster. He was occupied, at the moment, giving medication to an infant of two years old who is struggling with aids.

After a brief discussion I asked to be shown the various rooms. The boys’ room held 28 boys in bunk beds with 4 boys per bed. Although things were neat there wasn’t much room to walk around the beds. The girls’ room showed the same plight. I then asked to see the storeroom where the food was kept. As he unlocked a third door I could see that the room was completely empty. Where is the food I asked? “We have none” came the simple reply. What will you do for dinner, I innocently asked? By the grace of God we shall eat today. I stated that I appreciated his faith but what if the food does not arrive before dinner time? He meekly replied “Then we go hungry until food comes”.

Such faith and dependence upon God is common amoung these beautiful people. We ensured that there would be food that night and put things in motion to help lift them out of this daily struggle.
From one of Paul’s past trips to Kenya.

By: Gabrielle

Massai in Peril


As we were attending to the needs of the children in Nairobi, we became aware of a tribe of Maasai, the aboriginal people of Africa, who were in distress. A two year drought was killing the cattle, who are the mainstay of their survival. We contacted the chief and asked how we could help. He replied asking us if we could bring some hay for the cattle. I agreed but found it difficult convincing a truck driver to take the shipment to the village as the Maasai are located 6 hours west of Nairobi in the open range with no way to service a vehicle in the event of a break-down. There are no roads by which to navigate and no service stations enroute.

Two days prior to our journey I received a message from the chief that the rains were coming and that the cattle will be fine as the grass will sprout up very quickly. He did request however that we bring flour if we could as the drought had dried up their food supply. We agreed and made an arrangement with a wholesaler to 500 bags of flour. I asked the chief how many people were in the village and he responded that there were about 50. I thought that amount of flour would hold them over for quite a while.

We headed out on the appointed day with a Maasai as our guide. Once the roads disappeared I was most grateful for his directions, as there was no way to find our way otherwise. We travelled through areas where elephants had migrated and saw the massive destruction of their path. As we approached the village we started to see a few of the natives gathering. We were overwhelmed when we pulled into the clearing to find over 1,000 Maasai gathered having heard that “white men” were coming with food. As excited as we were to see them I was somewhat concerned as to how I would satisfy 1,000 people with only 500 sacks of flour. Most of the men were carrying spears and clubs and sticks.

After a brief greeting and celebratory jumping displays, I came up with a plan. I figured that there were probably 500 women and 500 men. I could give each woman a bag of flour if I could only get the men out of the way. In the Maasai culture the man is dominant and therefore and presents would go to the men. As we had also brought blankets I stood on the truck and announced that we had brought presents for all the men. I instructed all the men to come to a clearing where they would receive their gifts. The men were so pleased with the gesture they all left the truck heading for the clearing. With the departure of the men I quickly instructed the women through an interpreter to get into a single file line and we quickly handed a bag of flour to each woman. The next day we gave toys and clothing to the children.

Paul

Thank you from Dagoretti Corner Rehabilitation Centre

Another kind letter of appreciation, this one is from Dagoretti Corner Rehabilitation Centre. They care for 476 residential children.

Dear Lift the Children,
We wish to thank God for you for your continuous support to the center. Be loved, we wish to express to you our heartfelt message of appreciation for the love God has put in your heart. In order to make this world a better place God has sent people like you to do good things for others, and make their lives better. Whenever I remember God, I softly pray that He blesses everyone I love and immediately think of you. I pray that God will hold you close today and that your faith in Him will give you a renewed hope, peace and joy. May you be refreshed by His presence, knowing He care. May His spirit fill your day with sincere love for life. I always wish you all the wonders of Gods beautiful world. We earnestly pray that God continues strengthening this cordial relationship by blessing you in all your endeavors as your purpose to continue supporting our programmes.

Thank you,
Pastor Enos Baxic Oumo
Founder/Director

Thank You from Faith Children Home

We had a lovely note of appreciation and picture sent to us today from Faith Childrens Home:

Dear Lift the Children,

Greetings from the Children of Faith Children Home, Mombasa Kenya.
We thank you for your monthly support in our project. Through your support we have been able to increase the number of orphan children we care for, we have a Big house now for our children and are able to improve our feeding programme to our children, thanks and be blest. We hope in your next visit to Kenya you will be able to visit our home and see.

Yours,
Robert Mueke
Director of Faith children home Kenya.

Champions of Africa

One of the joys of our work here in Arica is coming to know the wonderful men and women who care for these sweet children. I call them champions for that is truly what they are. In most cases they have devoted everything they have to the care of the children. They live in abject poverty and use all their time and energy to gather together the basic needs of the children. I always ask why they have taken upon themselves such a heavy load in life and there are only three answers I have ever received.

Many have seen the suffering of the children and could not bear to allow it to continue without doing whatever they could tend to their needs. Others were orphans themselves and feel it is their blessing and responsibility to save other children as they had been saved. The balance feel that it is God that has reached out to them and called them to provide for these precious souls. As we assess the motivation of these caregivers we pledge our commitment to be at their side as they reach out to these abandoned children. A day does not go by during which I am hugged, embraced, held and prayed for. I try to convey that the blessings provided actually come from God and that we are only the delivery men. They extend such deep gratitude for the support and love we try to share. They do not understand that they provide much more to us than we will ever be able to provide for the. The bonds of friendship that ensue help them overcome all the trials that the work entails.

by Paul Christensen

African orphanage

No Ball to Play

On my travels through Mozambique I came across a children’s home in a remote part of the country. The children were aged from 6 to 16. They seemed to be fairly well cared for but spent most of their time sitting around with not much to do. I noticed a basketball hoop that had been put up years ago and asked why they don’t play ball. In a sullen tone they responded that they had no ball. In a nearby village we purchased a ball and then had to search to find a pump for the ball. Having found a pump we then had to look for a needle which took a while to locate. Once all together the ball was brought to the centre. There was instantly a buzz of excitement as the boys all jumped at the chance to play. I tried to show them some moves but they move so fast they kept overtaking me for the ball. We had a great time and laughed all afternoon as we played together.

Paul

PATHWAY TO KIBERA

As part of one of our service trips we had determined to build a feeding center in the slum of Kibera.

Unfortunately, the path to the center took us through raw sewage, mud and slime. We decided that we would construct a clean pathway for the use of all the public in the area. We started by collecting all the scum and garbage that formed the path and built a form for what would become the sidewalk. We installed piping to channel the sewage and brought in truckloads of gravel. We built a bridge over a creek and repaired all the leaking pipes. Once the pathway was complete and groomed, it really looked terrific. The locals were overwhelmingly pleased and asked us if we were going to continue the path all throughout  Kibera. I responded that we have started the work, it was now each tenants job to carry it on. They didn’t.