Friday, May 27, 2005

STREET CHILD AFRICA:Helping The Wretched Of The Young

If you believe that every child deserves a decent chance in life, then you believe in everything Street Child Africa stands for.

It was to be a friend to street children, and to help others helping street children that motivated the formation of Street Child Africa in 1998. A registered charity in the United Kingdom, Street Child Africa want to help these children to survive, to prevent their abuse and to give them hope and self-respect so that they can look forward optimistically to the future.

Life for street children in the cities of Africa is brutally harsh. And even those these children may seem invisible to many urban dwellers in those cities, the children are nevertheless there. All to often, the shoe-shine boys, the gutter cleaners, the street barbers and the girl porters in the markets are not the children of poor families but instead are street children. Many of these children have come to the cities alone, leaving their families in their poor rural villages.

As the numbers of street children rise, there are more children competing for the few sources of income that are available and the governments of the African nations do not have enough resources to address these social issues. This problem is also overlooked by western NGOs focusing on larger economic projects. The United Nations estimates that 50% of Africa's population are under the age of 16, and with 34 of the 42 poorest countries in the world being in Africa, this puts stresses on the traditional family and village structures and indicates that the numbers of street children will continue to rise.

The rising number of street children is already placing incredible strain on the resources of Accra, Ghana. There, the population of street children has more than doubled in the last five years.

Having been founded by a Catholic priest (Fr Patrick Shanahan) Street Child Africa receives support by many churches all over the United Kingdon. However, all of their work in Africa that they support is non-denominational and the support they receive is from all denominations.

On its web site, Street Child Africa states: "We do not support any person or project which attempts to influence the religious beliefs or background of any street child in any way. We help any and every street child who needs it, regardless of their religious beliefs or background. We do not permit attempts to convert or influence street children in any aspect of our work, or the work of our partner agencies."

The strategy of Street Child Africa is to support African Non-Government Organisations (NGOs) and Charities working with and for street children in Africa. They intend to do this by

- Fundraising on behalf of African agencies working with street children
- Raising awareness about the plight of street children in Africa's towns and cities
- Generating fresh approaches to working with and for street children in Africa
- Shareing information with all agencies working with and for street children in Africa.
- Offering advocacy to any agency working with and for street children in Africa, and to any individual street child in Africa.

Recognizing the need for fresh approaches to working for the street children of Africa, Street Child Africa wants to share information between and provide a forum for all concerned agencies dealing with this problem. In line with this philosophy Street Child Africa belongs to the Consortium for Street Children UK (CSC), a group of some 40 agencies who work for Street Children in 63 countries around the world.

Three of their projects give a glimpse into the way Street Child Africa operates.

In Senegal they work with Avenir de l'Enfant, a NGO working with street children. They are leading the way in Francophone Africa with their 'Observatory', a centre run by trained professionals where children who have been physically or sexually abused may be counseled. Street Child Africa is hoping to fund their programs further and enable them to build a re-habilitation center where a "home away from the streets" can welcome street children.

In Mozambique they work with Meninos de Mocambique, a partner they fund in Maputo. A country ravaged by unemployment, HIV/Aids, and crippling poverty Mozambique has many children that are driven into the streets by these pressures. One of Meninos' projects is the operation of a mobile clinic that helps malnourished street children, who are even more susceptible to malaria, skin diseases and sexually transmitted diseases. Meninos also has outreach workers who visit the streets of Maputo on a daily basis and befriend the street children. Street Child Africa believes that through a gradual development of a trusting relationship, Meninos can help street children make choices about leaving the streets.

With partners like St Paul's Catholic College Sunbury, and Dutch donor agency Wild Geese, Street Child Africa is able to help its partner agency in Ghana, Street Girls Aid, build and equip a new skills training center for street girls in Accra, Ghana. The center will allow girls to train in useful vocational skills like hairdressing and sewing, which will help them find employment so that they can support themselves and their babies. It will also generate income for Street Girls Aid so that they can help even more street girls.

With effective fund raising efforts and expanding through new chapters like the one in Scotland, Street Child Africa is becoming a effective force in fighting the tragedy that is drowning these street children.

You can also go to their web site:
and download the Global Call for World Bank Commitment to Street Children that was developed at the Street Children Initiative International Conference organized by the World Bank in Washington, D.C. in April 2000.

No comments: