Brooke Blanchard

Brooke Blanchard (Undugu Society of Kenya): In 2004, Brooke conducted research on child labor abuses in Ecuador and worked as a physical therapist for children. In 2009 she worked as the Youth Program Coordinator at the International Rescue Committee. At the time of her fellowship Brooke was pursuing her MA in International Affairs at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs. After her fellowship, Brooke wrote: “After working in the slums, I see myself as unbelievably fortunate. It was very trying at times, so I think I’m proud of getting through the most difficult aspects."



A Place of Safety

09 Jul

While roaming around Kenya, the sight of skinny ragged street children becomes numbingly common. After some time, you may find yourself instinctively looking away, walking a bit faster to avoid their eyes, and responding to their pleas for food and money with a rapid “na, pole” (no sorry).  At Undugu however, staff members, volunteers, and older street youths seek out these young children to help reintegrate them with their families or take them to Undugu’s Rehabilitation Center in Kitengela (approx. 40 min outside of Nairobi). This Center acts as a temporary transition shelter, whose number one task is to reintegrate these children back into a safe home and into school.  Occasionally sometimes, the child’s situation makes this almost impossible.

A common sight in the slums

On a recent visit, I was able to interview several street boys about their lives and future aspirations. The details behind these brief stories are devastating and I lack the space to go into them in detail here. All of these boys are unable to be reintegrated due to having no known living relative or one that will agree to take them in. However, what is most important is for readers is  to witness these kids’ strength, resilience, and charm. If you would like to learn more about them please just reply. Also, there are no girls interviewed for several reasons, mainly being that there were only 3 at the Center, two were deaf and one had severe mental disabilities. However, I must say that learning Kenyan Sign language with them was a wonderful treat!

The most amazing kids one could spend a day with

Although I was able to film my visit at Kitengela, my blog is not allowing me to upload the video clips. For the time being I have pictures and the translated transcripts posted. If the technology fairies help me out, I will post the videos shortly. Apologies!

Patrick Muendua

Patrick

My name is Patrick Muendua. I am 11-years-old

What made you take to the streets?

I was big headed…I wasn’t listening, I refused to listen. I was leaving and at times I would come back [home].

By saying you weren’t listening, what did you mean?

By not being obedient to my parents.

How long have you been on the streets?

One year

From the time you came to the rehabilitation center, have there been any differences to living on the street?

Yes

How?

Eating, Bathing, we have everything. We play futbol, we have a very big field.

What would you love to do in the future to better yourself as an individual?

I want to work

What about education?

I want to study and be a pilot.

Paul  Chegue

Paul

My name is Paul Chegue. I lived at a place called Banana…my mother passed on and I was staying with my dad. My dad took us to our grandmother’s place and my uncle would beat us…until he chopped off my finger and I was rushed to Kiambu hospital for treatment…and then I took off to the streets.

When you took to the streets, how did you come to meet USK staff?

I met one of the USK teachers and he asked if I would love to go back to school and I said yes.

Is there any difference between USK and street life?

Yes

How?

We play futbol, we eat, shower and we are able to sleep comfortably. And…like in the streets…we never sleep comfortably…no food, just begging.

Would you like to better your life to be self-reliant? How would you like to change [your life]?

I would like to go for a mechanic course and when I’m through I would like to assist my other siblings.

Bran Louie

Bran

My name is Bran Louie. I come from Gudurai 44. I am 10-years-old.

What made you take to the streets?

My dad and mom passed on when I was very small…and the neighbor came to my rescue and she took me in. She took me to school. And one day I woke up and found that she was dead. She was stabbed with a knife.

How did you come to USK?

I took a long walk and came across a certain boy whom I explained everything that had happened and he took me to his father. I explained to them how my parents had died and the woman who had taken me in. I spent that night at their place and the following day the father of that boy took me to Kasarani police station. They took me to the kids department and then I was relocated to the USK rehabilitation center.

Since you have arrived at USK, have there been any changes in your life?

Yes, here I am able to eat, shower, sleep well and read.

What do you want to do in the future to change your life?

I would love to be a musician.

Brian Omega

Brian

My name is Brian Omega. I am 15-years-old.

How did you start your street life?

We were born, two of us, my sister and I, and after the passing on of my dad and mom, we stopped [our] schooling. I lived with my elder sister for 1 ½ months and thereafter she took off. I decided I couldn’t stay there alone and that’s when I left home.

After leaving your place, where did you go to?

I took a bus going to Nairobi. After reaching Nairobi, I started looking for food from begging. I was forced to do odd jobs so that I could afford a plate of meal. Thereafter I took to Mutura Market* and I stayed there for five years.

How did you come to know USK organization?

There’s a teacher from Undugu who asked us if we would love to be assisted and I accepted. She took our names then she came for us the following day.

Since you came to the USK rehabilitation center, have you noticed any difference compared to life on the street?

Yes, here in Undugu I’m able to read, eat, shower, sleep comfortably without being disturbed…and like…street life…there is no peace. You’re beaten anytime. At times you go on empty stomach.

What would you love to do in the future to be self-reliant?

I would like to go for a mechanic course so that I would be able to assist my family.

As a personal note, I found it incredible that many of these boys talked about “taking care of their families” when all of them either lacked one or were told by their families that they were unwanted. Further, no child expressed anger or frustration for their circumstances and some even placed the blame on themselves despite their abusive pasts. Their perseverance and hope for the future is infectious, and for me, leaving this quiet tucked away compound at the end of the day was tremendously difficult.

My "escort" to the road

One more group hug for the road!

Posted By Brooke Blanchard

Posted Jul 9th, 2010

4 Comments

  • Sharon Drager

    July 9, 2010

     

    As always, a wonderful, insightful post, and great photos.

  • sheli nan

    July 9, 2010

     

    dearest brooke
    you are doing such good work – i am so proud of you – your kind loving heart – mixed with your amazing brain – what a combo!! please stay safe – how fortunate for your darling little kids – make sure you sing and play percussion and besto of luck
    xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxsheli

  • Erin

    July 13, 2010

     

    Good job Brooke!

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