INNOCENCE ON THE STREET
Eric is a twelve year old boy originally from the town of Muranga, about 50 kilometers south of Nairobi. He has a round face and solemn eyes that accentuate his shyness. While interviewed he looked at the ground, except for when tuning into the translator’s words. While being interviewed, he fidgeted with a piece of grass, then a twig, and then a piece of grass again.
He was interviewed by my friend Becky, a fellow American law student who I met in China and randomly ended up seeing in Nairobi (small world). She came with me to one of Undugu’s Street Associations one day to help interview a few of the children. Eric’s story had an impact on Becky. She said that before interviewing Eric, she would guard her pockets and walk as fast as possible through the hordes of street children that sometimes targeted her with their begging. After Eric, she said she wanted to be a bit freer with her pocket change.
Eric has only been living on the streets of Nairobi for two weeks. In a world where some children are second or even third generation street dwellers, Eric’s recent arrival is unique.
Eric is an orphan. His mother died and his father is unknown. Becky didn’t ask how his mother died, but she did try to offer her condolences for his deceased mother. Eric responded with a blank stare towards the dirt.
After Eric’s mother died, he was taken into a home for orphans. He ran away two weeks ago after being beaten for not doing his chores. It’s a tragic irony that a home created to save orphans pushed one into the streets with a short-tempered beating.
Eric’s greenness to the streets is obvious. He hasn’t yet discovered glue or other street drugs. He doesn’t yet mix with the other street children with the kind of brash confidence required for survival on the streets. I imagine he is still being assimilated into the informal society that exists on the streets. Sure enough, the make-shift governing body of the gang in his neighborhood has their eyes on him. Sizing him up. Intimidating him a bit. Getting ready to demand his loyalty.
Eric told us that he sleeps in the brush. After a few more weeks on the streets, he might gain enough standing to claim a more substantial piece of ground; maybe under a bus stop or in a secluded corner of an alleyway.
Eric has been more fortunate than many children who run to the streets. He spent his first few days begging for just enough money to buy some bread. Then, a woman took to him–perhaps impressed by his innocent face–and began buying him food every day. I don’t know who this woman is, but somewhere in Nairobi there is a woman who takes a moment out of her daily commute to feed a homeless child. I hope she’s blessed for it.
Eric is also lucky because he has already been identified by Undugu. His future is going to be much easier than many street children as he already has an organization that is interested in getting him off the streets. Months from now, he could be enrolled in one of Undugu’s Basic Education Programs or be living at Undugu’s rehabilitation center why a relative is identified to take him in. I’m hopeful for Eric. I especially hope that he gets off of the streets while he still has that innocent look to his face.
Posted By Jonathan Homer
Posted Aug 2nd, 2007