The full circle of care for street kids and their families

For sponsors of the Street Kids Rescue children it is not just the child who benefits. The sponsorship can radically change the future of a whole family. Many of the street children come from families with many siblings, indeed it is often the parent/guardian’s difficulty providing for many children that lead to the poverty and hunger that force children to seek food from the streets. It is therefore sometimes difficult for sponsors to know the complexities of supporting a street child through to sustainable independent living in the context of the child’s wider family.

Greeting parents at the Street Kids Rescue project in Kamenge, Bujumbura

Most sponsors are understandably focussed on the child him/herself but the teams in Rwanda/ DRC/ South Sudan/ Burundi are constantly working with the wider family. This can include:

  • tracing relatives
  • working with guardians/parents who have had life controlling issues like alcohol problems
  • developing plans for reintegration
  • monitoring of reintegrated children with visitation and contact
  • sorting out issues like food support or rent support for the parental-guardian-host family which can include sensitive issues like ensuring other siblings are not going hungry while the sponsored child eats
  • developing income generation activities for the parent-guardian to enable them to build an income base for future care of the child/family
  • organising schooling or skills training for a child if the parent-guardian lives away from the immediate project area (many street children in Kigali have migrated to the city and their families live far away)
  • working round critical issues where one or both parents is sick or disabled or in prison
  • helping change the mindset of parent-guardians who have lived all their lives with no hope or expectations of change

and much, much more … 

It's not only the children, but also their parents and families, whose lives have been transformed through the SKR project in Burundi
Meeting with the children and their families on a recent visit to the Nyabunyegeri SKR project
Comfort Congo staff Bedadi meeting with parents of children on the SKR project in Goma, DRC

A recent example of the decision making challenges facing the team has been their work with Ndayishimye Claude (name changed but situation factual). His parents are both physically disabled. They live in a village far from Kigali. Their poverty, the lack of food at home, and the absence of school fees for Claude to go to school led him to the streets of Kigali and eventually he finished up sleeping in the mosquito infested swamp at Nyabisindu drinking beer to numb the hopelessness and stealing food to survive. By the age of 13 Claude had already had two stints of 7 months and 3 months in jail.  But after alleviating Claude’s own situation the Comfort Rwanda team have turned their attention to supporting reintegration with the parents and Claude’s two siblings. Support for the family has been crucial, including stabilising their accommodation – without stable accommodation Claude could not return home and his mother says  ‘I and my husband have serious physical problems and we would be on street if the project was not covering our house rent.’ Claude himself has been given support from the project for hairdressing.

So supporting the parents and siblings as well as helping develop business training/business grants/skills training etc. are all part of what it means to help the child. It is a huge and often unnoticed part of our partners’ work to give time to this and a big investment of resources. But it is crucial to setting the context for the future success of the child’s move into sustainable independent living. So well done to all the teams in each of the countries for working so hard towards a total answer for the challenges of street living. Comfort International will always seek to work towards sustainable living solutions for the most vulnerable in society, for all of the children on the projects and indeed, for their families. 

a little can change a life