by Peter Agnone
When Kids say "Hodi" (knock, knock) ... We say "Karibu" (welcome)
The Ukweli Home of Hope Project was established in 1995 to serve the needs of poor street children in Nairobi. The Project includes a small home for boys and a daytime drop-in center; they receive guidance and counseling, food, shelter, education and a sense of hope for their future.
The Ukweli Home of Hope is our response to the call of Jesus... "let the little children come unto me". We provide love and care to street boys recognizing their value and the importance of becoming self-sufficient; we also support the value of family in their lives and make every effort to reunite them.
To provide for the rights and welfare of Nairobi street children by offering them... - a safe haven that supports moral upbringing, security and peace - a growing awareness of their strengths and weaknesses - a temporary home that offers them love, basic care and rehabilitation - support and a process for reuniting them with family and returning to school - guidance for improving life skills, education and income generating projects.
UKWELI PROJECT GOALS
Provide basic survival services, guidance and counseling and resource referral for street children. - Develop necessary programs of rehabilitation and the requisite staff training. - Provide remedial education, training and development that prepare the boys for self-sufficiency and some financial security. - Collaborate with community and other organizations to address the unmet social and health needs of street children in Nairobi. - Build long-term partners and financial support to sustain and expand needed programs.
THEN AND NOW
The Ukweli Drop-In Center was founded in 1995 by the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers as an attempt to do something about the growing number of street children in Nairobi, specifically around the Westlands area. Over the past five years, the gathering and advisement of street boys, which began under a tree in Westland's round-about, has grown to be a drop-in kiosk, a block from its original site. Anyone is welcome to drop-in to say hello, rest safely, brush-up on reading, math or writing skills, or just have a cup of "chai" with the friendly staff. Open every weekday, two social workers meet, counsel and befriend the boys. In 1997 a property in Kibera was purchased in order to provide a home for 12 of the boys from the "drop-in" who were ready to return to school and get off of the streets- but had nowhere to call home. Today this small home offers personalized attention and care for 20 boys; there are two full-time resident teachers and one half-time assistant who also act as parents and mentors for these boys. Boys under 14 are admitted into the home and stay until they can be reunited with their family or can live independently. The new Millennium brings Ukweli under new management of the Little Sisters of St. Francis. With the combined leadership of Sr. Kevin Karimi, LSOSF and Brother Peter Agnone, MM, as well as on-going assistance from Maryknoll religious and lay volunteers, there is a strong commitment to retain the caring traditions begun by Fr. Carroll Houle, MM and Margaret Wanjau five years ago. Today, with over 40,000 street children in Nairobi alone, the needs are even greater for Ukweli's mission of helping street children live, learn and grow.
DID YOU KNOW?
Since 1989 the numbers of street children in Nairobi alone has skyrocketed from 3,600 to 60,000. The majority are males and urban migrants between the ages of 6-15. Most come from single parent families with little formal education and no income. Most have lived on the streets for 2-3 years forming their own social groupings. Street children often perform humanizing functions in their groups and become firm friends. Once a relationship of trust is established they readily respond with care and affection. Street Children are forced by circumstances to fend for themselves, and even sometimes to support their families. Sheer survival is the driving force behind all they do, whether it be scavenging for food or for articles they can sell, stealing, begging or doing casual jobs. Many are engaged in the numbing, undesirable practices of drug-taking, drinking alcohol or sniffing glue.
Keeping the doors open for Nairobi's street children at the Home of Hope is a priority of the Maryknoll Society. Please consider contributing to this endeavor.