Street children continue to be one of the most heartbreaking groups of people I've seen in my 11 years of doing missions in Africa. Almost all of the street children I've met have profoundly sound sad stories of how they ended up in the devastating circumstances they're in.
Many do come to the streets because of extreme poverty in their families, which prevents their caretakers from being able to feed, clothe and educate them well. Some prefer to come to the streets of the city rather than work in the farm because of the embarrassment they experience from their peers who are going to school. Others have been simply left by their parents to fend for themselves. Some parents prefer the company of a boyfriend or girlfriend who don't want the children around. Some have been left behind afer parents have died. Many have been forsaken by parents too addicted to drugs or alcohol to be able to care for the kids.
So in a nation with very limited social services available, their option for survival is to head to the streets and join the other kids who have made their home there. Where many have already joined a community of other street kids at a "base" on the edge of a slum, in tin shacks, where they pull together to a degree, though the young are often stolen from and preyed upon by drug dealers and sexual perverts. Some sleep, or try to sleep, at night in fruit stands, or behind a particular restaurant or shop whre they are welcome. Such as a certain fish place I know of that gives the kids small bags of fish on certain days and times. Besides those offerings they are left with no choice but to beg for food, usually in fron tof supermarkets and in the middle of the traffic of busy roads. They go without shoes or wear shoes that often see to be rotting off of their feet. They beg for clothes and blankets to ward off the cold at night. They experienc the constant insecurity of not only the lack of food and shelter, but also the threat of beatings from police and even fellow citizens who look upon them as people at the lowest rung of society. In Kenya they are very commonly called "chokoras" in KiSwahili, or "dirty things."
In light of the conditions they suffer, such as the above named... cold, hunger, threats, beatings, lack of nurturing and love, abandonment, neglect, it's not much surprise that they use the cheap glue or airplane fuel (called musie) to numb their minds and bodies so as to not have to feel the effect of these painful physical conditions and emotions. Unfortunately these chemicals that they purchase for very little money, keep in old whisky bottles, and inhale through their outh right into their lungs, quickly causes serious damage to their nervous system and brain. Within a few years they sometimes shake so bad that they can't pick up a cup of water and drink it without it splashing all over, or they're unable to think properly anymore. This then makes it very difficult to help them if someone does come along and want to teach them a school or pay for them to go to school. Then their options are very limited, usually leaving them to live out the remainder of their lives on the streets. Their life span is short, the average life expectancy of orphans around the world is under 30 years old, how much less it must be for a person living on the streets.
The UN says the following: The
Office on Drugs and Crime has reported that glue sniffing is at the
core of “street culture” in Nairobi, and that the majority of street children
in the city are habitual solvent users. Research conducted by Cottrell-Boyce for the African
Journal of Drug and Alcohol Studies found that glue sniffing amongst Kenyan
street children was primarily functional – dulling the senses against the
hardship of life on the street – but it also provided a link to the support
structure of the ‘street family’ as a potent symbol of shared experience.
These truly are the least of these. They distrust people, but when they find people who truly care about them, they typically become very loyal and grateful to those people, and ask for the help they need. Experts estimate there are approximately 250,000 street children living in Kenya, with around 60,000 in th capital city of Nairobi, where I work. Unicef says there are tens of millions of street children in the world. This is a very needy group and a good one to reach out to. So much peotential to help desperate young people, save lives and change lives for better, and for all eternity. There are many things one can do to help. There are many organizations who have outreaches and shelters in areas around the world to reach out to this almost forgotten population of kids. If you have a particular region of the world on your heart you can research and find orsuch organizations there, and support them financially and emotionally. You can also visit these areas and meet the kids yourself. I personally work with kids in the Nairobi, Kenya area if you would like information about work there. Prayer for these kids worldwide is a greatly needed and eternally valuable thing to do.
Thank you and God bless you for reading this, and for thinking about these kids and the workers trying to help them.
Click here to contribute to this ongoing work to help shelter, feed and care for street children in Nairobi, Kenya.