Kristina Rosinsky

Kristina Rosinsky (Undugu Society of Kenya - USK): Kristina graduated in 2007 with a BA in government and politics (magna cum laude) from the University of Maryland-College Park with minors in French and history. During her time at university Kristina did study abroad in Nice, France for five months and then worked in Huancayo, Peru teaching English to children in early 2007. In her senior year Kristina wrote a thesis titled “The Effect of the Mexico City Policy on International Development: An Attack on Reproductive Health and Family Planning Worldwide,” which received high honors. Prior to her fellowship, Kristina worked at AP as an intern and then as the Assistant Information Manager.

A Homeless Child in Westlands

30 May

The other day a co-worker was showing me around my new neighborhood and helping me get situated. We were on our way to purchase a cell phone when she said “Here’s the mall.” Okay…but surely it is not a MALL mall. I was wrong.

We walk in and it is a mall just like at home. Granted this one did not have an escalator, but sure enough the next one we went to did.

To be honest, I wasn’t expecting a shopping mall like those in the US. However, after a couple days in Nairobi, it seems normal. The USK office is in Westlands, a very nice part of town and incidentally the only area of Nairobi I have been to so far. I’ve been to bars and restaurants that could rival their Western counterparts. I’ve learned that I am going to be perpetually under dressed on workdays seeing that those on the street are wearing suits and high heels. And I’ve realized that my bottom-of-the-line cell phone that I bought does not fit in well with the fancy and sleek phones of the Kenyan middle class.

As I am walking around surrounded by all of this, I am slapped in the face by the sight of a poor, homeless child. All around him were nice buildings, gated communities and Kenyans clutching their cell phones. But then there was him, a boy around the age of 15 who was dirty and clutching his bottle of glue that was making him so high that he was just mumbling and smiling to himself.

Right then I realized that while I am in the nice part of town, I am still in Nairobi. I am in a town where there are tens of thousands of homeless children and youth spending their days and nights on the street. Most of them live in the informal settlements, such as Kibera, arguably the world’s largest slum. There, even if you have a home, you live in absolute squalor. The life of a child living on the street is even worse.

Next week I will be experiencing this side of Nairobi for the first time. I will be visiting the informal settlements (slums) to identify the children and youth who will be part of the blogging and photography project I will undertake with them. Those interested will be able to broadcast their lives, stories, opinions and hopes to the entire world.

Preparing to begin this project makes me wonder what the boy I saw in Westlands has to tell the world. How did he end up on the streets? Why does he sniff glue? Where is his family? What does he think about the government? We may never find out any of this about this boy, but in the next few months the world will hear the voices of others like him and be reminded that no matter where you live – whether it is in the nice part of Nairobi or in an American suburb – the lives of the children and youth living on the streets go on.

Posted By Kristina Rosinsky

Posted May 30th, 2008


  • Paul

    May 31, 2008


    Hey Kristina! I liked your BLOG. What you said about the incredible discrepency between the wealthy side of Nairobi and the poor larger part completely reminds me of Delhi… the rich here live very similar lives to upper-class Americans, but the poor live in a world that is almost beyond description in how horrible the conditions are. It always puzzles me how these two completely different realities can exist within blocks or even meters of eachother. But I guess even in America we have similar situations… take North East and North West Washington DC, for example.

    – Paul

  • heather

    June 2, 2008


    I liked your blog also, but I also liked Paul’s comment about the North East and North West Washington. Don’t we just do the same in the West when we walk by a homeless person? And you know there are plenty on this block? Don’t we just think to ourselves that it’s their fault?

    I’d like to know what services the Kenyan government offers these children, if they can afford to offer any, and how many of these services reach the children if these numbers are available, or are in estimates.

    What kind of opportunities are available for the street children in Kenya versus in the US? I guess here it’s mostly people older than 16, or technically 18, but do they have any way out like they do here?

    Thanks for your response Kristina. I imagine you are quite busy helping USK out there!

  • Amber

    June 2, 2008


    Hi Aunt Krissy! Its me!You can write some serious stuff there! I can actually feel what you could kinda feel! sys!(see you soon) love,

  • Amy Burrows

    June 3, 2008


    really well-written kristina! it makes me anxious to read your next blog!

  • Kristina

    June 4, 2008



    First of all, thanks for the comment!

    Now to answer your questions…People do do the same in the US. The difference is that the homeless people on our streets are often middle aged or older. I am even not sure that I have ever seen a homeless child begging on the streets of Washington DC. So that is one difference and it is a big one. Adults are seen as being capable of helping themselves (even if this is not always the case). When walking by we think that they could do something to improve their lot. With children it is different, at least to me.

    Also I wanted to mention that I truly find the disparity between rich and poor here MUCH more dramatic than at home. I will be able to explain this much better after I have been here more.

    I talked to Ruth and she said that the Kenyan government has tried, in the past, to rescue these kids from the streets and rehabilitate them, but failed due to a lack of experience and resources. Due to this failure the government has essentially stopped trying and now it is only the NGOs and other organizations working to do something for the kids.

    Luckily, these organizations provide a lot of opportunities, most important of which is education and vocational training. These opportunities provide these children with a way out and USK is just one of many of these providers. However, not every child can be reached.

    This is essentially why USK has moved to advocacy, to fix the problem at the source rather than put a bandaid on the problem.

    Sorry I neglected the US aspect of your question, I just don’t know the answer. If you are talking about food stamps and things of the sort, in Kenya there is no equivalent. There are Development Funds for constituencies (political units), which are meant to be used to benefit the community, but often these funds do not reach those intended.

    Others, feel free to contribute to Heather’s comment.

  • mwanjau

    June 7, 2008


    Hallo Christina ..I appreciate the good work ypu have started on so far.

    About the CDF you can get more information from the folling links

    or just type in the words CDF+Kenya and you get lots of write ups on it.


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