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QPR Coaches Blog- Day 3
Tonight we went out onto the streets of Mwanza to speak some children who are still living there. It wasn't easy to get to speak to these kids. We went through a social worker at Kuleana, who in turn contacted Jolam, a social worker with another project and a former street child himself. In Mwanza, the various street children NGOs work closely together and theirs is a good model of collaboration.
Jolam arranged with some of the children he works with on the street to come and talk to us. The kids insisted that we met in a safe space away from other children on the street. Out here they have their own code of rules and regulations. It wasn't safe for them to meet us in their normal working areas otherwise they might suffer retribution from other children here - they don't like them talking to outsiders. These children choose to stay on the street because they can earn a bit of money and don't have to adhere to the routine of the Children's Centre. But it means they lack the emotional and physical support that organisations like Kuleana and Upendo can offer. This is why Jolam comes to the street. So that these forgotten children can still have someone to talk to.
We met in a side street; Jolam and four of the kids. After a five minute discussion they decided the place wasn't good enough so they continued round the corner to somewhere more deserted. We followed after another five minutes and parked the car in the street with deserted market stalls all around.
Kanuti from Kuleana explained to he children what we wanted to ask them, and then we began. We asked about what it feels like to be on the street, what their dreams were, their aspirations. One child said that he wanted to be a scientist but had dropped out of school 4 years ago because he couldn't pay the fees and then started living on the streets. He admitted that given the chance he would like to be rehabilitated with his family. He just didn't know how. The story was the same for one of the others: he had dreams but he couldn't figure out how to take the first step. Sadly, one of the children who looked about 7 but was probably 12 years old replied, "God knows". He said he had lost all hope and whatever he might dream wouldn't happen so he doesn't dream.
At Kirumba stadium, training continued apace. We spoke with Dennis, who was at the previous SCWC in Durban. He is now 17 and hopes that the training will give him the opportunity to be a coach in the future. His message to the new team from Tanzania for 2014 was simply, "work hard." Dennis has worked hard since coming off the streets and he is now dreaming big.
With role models like Dennis, there is hope for children still living on the streets but we need to keep spreading the message so that people like Kanuti and Jolam can do their job effectively and encourage more children to give up street life and pick up their dreams. The Street Child World Cup was set up to support children like the ones we saw tonight. Together, in collaboration, I hope we can do it.
QPR Coaches Blog- Day 2
"The police see us as criminals not as children" Anon, Kuleana Centre
One of the best parts of this training is seeing the local police taking part. In many countries police are seen as the enemy of street children and are responsible for roundups and beatings. Here in Mwanza, Joseph Mwami, from the child protection unit, works closely with the Kuleana Centre. Their main focus is community policy and the idea that the community must be involved in order to move forward.
Community is key to working with children from the streets or in difficult situations. Without the support network around a family that an engaged community provides, it is easier for that family to disintegrate and for children to leave home. The Kuleana Centre tries to rehabilitate children who arrive there in a number of ways: by reuniting them with their immediate family, by placing them with other family relatives or by working with the authorities to find a foster care place for them. Sometimes, after exhausting these options, it is just not possible to find somewhere so the children stay at the centre until they are old enough to work and have a place of their own.
Back at the pitch, Joseph was talking about what he had learnt already from the course. Every year the police run a community tournament but in the past it hasn't engaged people in the way they would like to. Now, he says, he has some new ideas and tools to make the community tournament a big success and address some of the issues in Mwanza that ultimately will reduce crime.
For children from the streets, the efforts that the police here are making to understand their situation must help when they are found on the streets. Because of the reputation of the police, Joseph said that some kids even refer themselves to the police because they know they will get help. This, surely, is a sign that things are changing and that the community here is playing a big part.
QPR Coaches Blog- Day 1