Last Friday, my heart broke. All the children I have met have not been what I would qualify as “children” in the normal sense. They are at least in their mid teens, and are so hardened by the streets that they are capable of taking care of themselves. But Friday was different.
I met a ten year old boy, who was so small that he could easily pass for seven. He was dirty, wearing pants that were way too short for him and barefoot. Like most children, he seemed shy around new people, but quickly opened up and started laughing and playing like any ordinary child. However, this boy is not just like any other kid – he lives on the streets.
I have a ten year old niece at home in the US. Imagining her wandering the streets at night trying to find a warm place to sleep, waking in the morning so hungry that she picks through garbage, and being beaten and abused by older kids and the police is something so nightmarish to think about that it is hard for me to even write these sentences.
Unfortunately, while this is a nightmare scenario for my niece, it is everyday life for this young Kenyan boy. I don’t know the exact story of this particular boy, but something happened in his life that made him run away from home, or be forced to leave. Perhaps he is an orphan. While whatever traumatic situation caused him to end up on the streets, the real tragedy is that in Kenya and other countries, turning to the streets is a real option for these kids.
While my niece has her moments and gets angry with her parents, running away from home is simply not one of the ways to solve the problem. Even if she were orphaned, going to live on the streets of Baltimore or any other city probably would never cross her mind. The fact that this boy and others like him turn to the streets goes to show that the kids and society at large give legitimacy to the idea that living on the streets is a possibility.
Because of this, steps need to be taken to see why kids turn to the street in the first place and then address these reasons so that the streets no longer remain an option. Friday, I interviewed five young men and the common reasons for being on the streets were poverty, disease and lack of opportunity. Taking care of these issues can greatly reduce the number of kids who end up seeing the streets as a possible improvement. It will also prevent kids from being forced on the streets against their will.
No matter what is done now, the boy I met Friday did end up on the streets. He is outside right now when it is dark and chilly while I am in a warm house writing this blog and my niece is safe, warm and fed at home. My heartache tells me that this boy will surely remain burned into my memory and heart forever, a constant reminder of the injustices of this world and the need to do something about them.
Posted By Kristina Rosinsky
Posted Jun 19th, 2008