Jina is a 13-years-old street-connected girl in Mombasa, Kenya. She came to the streets due to a broken family and neglect at home. She started begging on the streets to provide for her younger siblings.
Jina’s Journey To Self-Acceptance And Recovery
Jina’s mother had been ill for a long time, with mental crises affecting her self-esteem that did not allow her to take care of her children. As a consequence, Jina and her siblings were neglected at home. Jina’s father abandoned his family and started another family. “A few times she (Jina) has met her father, she has been beaten up and not supported in any way. According to her, there are times she used to go to her father’s new home and she would be abused” explains Liz, Programme Manager at Glad’s House Kenya.
Without anyone to take care of her and her siblings, Jina felt like it was her duty to provide food for her family. So she began to beg on the streets. “It was easy for her to run to the streets where she could be with her friends and get food around the city centre”, explains Liz.
But the road does not spare a 13-year-old girl. On the street, she still encountered the violence, the abuses that she had already known from home. “She would be abused while begging when seeking solace from friends, including finding herself with men who did not really love her but abused her as well,” says Liz. And as she became ever more dependent on the street, “street life pushed away her dream to go to school”, continues Liz.
As Jina grew up as a teenager, it became even more difficult to beg without being harassed. So she handed over her place on the streets to her younger siblings, and her role became to manage the money they were able to collect. At that point, she gave up on school and dropped out.
Before meeting with Glad’s House staff, Jina attended outreach activities of other local organisations that provided free food and charity handouts to children in the streets, but no actual support to improve children’s situation in the long term.
Jina’s drive to seek a better life for her and her siblings led her to Glad’s House. “When her friends from the city centre came to our safe space, she sometimes followed them. But when she went back to the street, she would be beaten up by her boyfriends or fellow girls over a man”, reports Liz. “She would talk and plead with street workers to be given another chance, come back to the safe space by herself and start to build relationships with street workers and express herself”.
Restoring Hope: The Impact Of Street Work On Jina’s Life
It took time, but the support of Glad’s House Street Workers was life-changing for Jina and her family. The Street Workers immediately understood that she was psychologically and physically strained when they met her. “She was deprived of love, care, school and upbringing. She did not know the best way of seeking help apart from shouting, abusing and fighting back. She was very vulnerable, more on the inside,” says Liz. She had dropped out of school in second grade. Jina was also very malnourished – with a weight of only 33 kg – and needed immediate treatment for HIV/AIDS.
Through consistent street visits and support at Glad’s House Safe Space Centre, as well as family intervention, Street Workers made Jina feel loved and cared about for the first time. They supported her in accepting herself, feeling loved, and being aware of her situation. Glad’s House offered Jina the medication and the care she needed while working closely with local child protection units and a medical clinic to support Jina’s mother and facilitate family reunification.
Jina was keen to go to school but not ready, having been out of education for so long. “What helped solve her situation was honest and persistent (focus group) discussions with us. Even when she has been putting a lot of pressure to join a formal school again, different people have had to talk to her to be patient with herself because if she went to school today, she would be unable to catch up. Now she participates in the Glad’s House education project and our volleyball activities,” says Liz. Jina needed someone to give her love, care, and trust, among her other needs. “Our presence around her has given us a chance to be the adults she wanted to have at the right time“, expresses Liz.
Today, Jina lives in the community with her mother. She feels calm and accepts taking her journey back to school at the most appropriate pace, and she is now building new friendships with girls in the community.
“She is in the right direction to rebuilding her life”, concludes Liz.
About Glad’s House Kenya, CSC network member and StreetInvest’s Regional Coordinating Partner for East Africa
Glad’s House Kenya (GHK) has been a leading local NGO in Mombasa for almost 15 years, established in 2006 to work with street-connected children and young people aged up to 30 years old.
GHK is an influential voice at the local level, sitting as an expert advisor in different governmental committees for children’s services. GHK specialises in supporting children and young people deemed too ‘challenging’ for other programmes because of their behaviours and life choices, including substance misuse, running away from home, family or school, or crime. Street Workers are trained in how to identify, build trust with and support the most marginalised children, and Street Work reaches children that other interventions do not, where they are on the street.
In 2021, Glad’s House team of 10 Street Workers supported over 500 street-connected children, including 300 boys and 200 girls. GHK conducted 246 street visits and through these reached 268 children and young people. They were able to remain active over the COVID-19 pandemic and during this time spearheaded a taskforce that has identified new challenges of street-connected children and young people (SCC&YP) and supported them throughout. Glad’s House has also engaged with 8 organisations to build the network and delivered Street Worker training to 16 staff members.
In May 2021, Glad’s House and StreetInvest, with funding from British & Foreign School Society(BFSS) began a new Inclusive Education Programme to bridge the gap in education access and outcomes for SCCYP, slum-dwelling and poor children in Mombasa.
Within the first year of the education programme, 174 out of school SCCYP children have been supported with catch-up education and 77 slum-dwelling and poor children attending public schools in the neighbourhood supported with supplementary education. The educational support provided by GHK has reduced drop-out rates among children and increased attendance by 98%, keeping more children out of the streets. The programme has also built an e-library equipped with computers to support the children learn computer skills and a physical library with study materials.