Louder Together

Posted on April 12, 2011

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The Consortium for Street Children, a consortium of 60 NGOs working in over 130 countries worldwide, today launches the ‘International Day for Street Children: Louder Together’ campaign.

The campaign aims to highlight the plight of street children the world over. While many countries have signed up to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, ignorance is still bliss in many cases. I’ve heard stories of children being swept off the streets into prisons, in both Tanzania and DR Congo, whenever officials are passing through – all this to portray a better image and a state of ‘perfection’ in the cities and towns. Governments are not doing enough to help these children, and the Louder Together campaign aims to rectify that, thankfully.

During my time with the Amani Children’s Home in Moshi, Tanzania, I was amazed – and saddened – by the stories of abuse and neglect that the children, some as young as 4 and others as old as 18, had experienced. Due to violence, abuse, neglect and dead (from AIDS) parents, most children ran away from it all to seek a life on the streets, believing it to be a better option. Some have no choice in the matter however: Daudi for instance, who is autistic, was simply abandoned on the streets and found aged 3. Kalisti, another boy with learning disabilities, was forced to beg on the streets with his grandmother. No child should have to go through that, and no child should be deprived of a real childhood.

Me with Zenabu and Riziki

Despite their terrible plight however, the children had found in Amani a safe and secure establishment that they could call home. A place they knew they were safe. The transformation was unbelievable: a new child would enter the home scared, wary and suspicious, but within merely a week, they were happy, more confident and showing childlike attitudes, rather than adult ones.

Two things will always stay with me from my time with Amani:

  1. The courage of the children – despite their history and the stories of abuse, the children were always so happy. It was an inspiring sight to behold.
  2. The joy of learning – they loved going to school, and they loved to learn, it was incredible. Every day for them was one to be excited about, which is, of course, the way it should be.

The situation here in the DRC is (generally) not a pretty one. This country has seen horrors and violence on a scale beyond measure over the years. Everyone has been affected: men and women; young and old – no distinction has been made.

Centre Kimbilio

Which is why it’s fortunate that someone like Ian Harvey is around to help out with the street children problem here in Lubumbashi. As mentioned in previous blogs, Ian heads up the Kimbilio project, which is in its second year of existence, and creating huge strides. Two short case studies about a couple of Kimbilio’s children can be seen here:

In no way should it ever be ignored just how vulnerable children are. A child deprived of a childhood is a crime; a child deprived of a childhood and living on the streets is no longer a child, but a child forced to act as an adult in a treacherous world. No child should ever have to go through that.

And yet they do.

The ‘Louder Together’ campaign is supported by Aviva’s global ‘Street to School’ programme that aims to help get 500,000 street children back into education by 2015. And since its inception in 2009, roughly 128,000 at-risk youngsters have been reached, which is a phenomenal result in such a short period of time.

Due to lack of internet connection on my part, the campaign will be over by the time you read this, and it will be another 359 (or however many) days until the next International Day for Street Children. But that shouldn’t stop us from shouting louder together every day over the next year and beyond. We must.

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