Laughter Africa works with street children in Africa
to help them fulfil their aspirations and bring about positive change in their lives
Our Vision is a world where street children are respected as human beings and given the dignity of a safe, secure place where their basic needs are met and where they can learn to laugh again. We believe that this vision will one day become a reality and will strive to achieve this by working with the street children in the following three-phased approach:
This involves our social workers meeting the children living on the streets through day or night surveys. It is a chance for us to get to know them and for them to get to know us. It’s about building a mutual trust and being there when they need us.
Our first priority is dealing with the immediate needs of the street children on the street. They may be hungry and need food. They may be ill and need medical care. They may have been raped and need someone to talk to. They may be having legal trouble with the police or judiciary and need someone to advocate on their behalf. They may be lonely or grieving and just need a listening ear. Whatever they need, Laughter Africa is willing to provide. We are also on hand if the street children suffer harm on the streets including stabbing, sexual abuse or other difficulties they may face. We want them to know that we are standing with them side by side on the frontlines of street life. The idea is to encourage the children to leave the streets behind but they are not forced to do so- it has to be their choice.
The outreach team launched a ‘mobile project’ in January 2017. The mobile project takes place in a community centre at Susan’s Bay. Susan’s Bay is the epicentre of where the street children live. The mobile project takes place five times a week from Monday to Friday. Activities take place in the community centre at Susan’s Bay from 4pm to 8pm each day. Each day, the following are available:
- Medical and health care. From our experience, the majority of street children have malaria. Many of the children we have already worked with have been diagnosed with hepatitis, HIV, cancer, liver problems or sickle cell. Therefore, it is vital that the street children receive medical check-ups and any treatment that is needed is provided.
- Food and water. This ensures that the children receive at least one meal every day.
- Counselling, basic education and workshops. Workshops are provided on drug education, basic hygiene and other life skills that help the children survive the realities of street life.
- Each day, the children decide the activities. They set the agenda; nothing is imposed on them. However, from our consultation with some street children we know that they like to participate in the following: modern dance, draughts, table football, story-telling, games and talent shows.
The premise behind our mobile work is to reach out to street children who make an active choice to remain on the streets. We believe it is vital to establish trust with those children who wish to stay on the streets. Trust is strengthened through the organisation of activities on the streets. Engaging in these activities with the children allows us all to become better acquainted and strengthens the bonds of trust while moving us closer to our goal of helping children break free from street life.
We are hopeful that once trust is established the street children will be willing to at least move off the streets and into the Interim Care Centre. The Interim Care Centre is the next stage of their journey towards reunification with their family and finally leaving the streets behind. Meeting the street children in their own environment is the crux to this work.
Our hope from the mobile work is that if the street children face any challenges or difficulties while living on the streets, then they will turn to Laughter Africa for support so that we can walk alongside them.
The reasoning behind the mobile project was because in 2016, two children, Augustine and Mohamed who lived on the streets tragically died. This mobile project is to prevent any more unnecessary deaths on the streets. We hope that by having such a programme in place means that children like Augustine and Mohamed will get the health care that they need, instead of just dying on the streets. This project is in memory of them.
Our temporary Interim Care Centre
The Laughter Africa temporary Interim Care Centre is a safe place for street children to live while attempts are made to find their families. At the Interim Care Centre we provide food, clothing, health care, education, counselling, support and other essentials. Activities such as drama, music, sport, cultural dance, games, cookery and arts and crafts are also made available so that they don’t get the chance to miss the streets and feel tempted to return. It gives the children a chance to clean up, rest and if they have been using drugs, allows them the opportunity to break the endless cycle of addiction before they return home. At the Interim Care Centre we discuss with the children what they would like to do in the long term and what the next steps involve. For example, it may be education, vocational training or apprenticeships. The Interim Care Centre is a place where the street children can be children and learn to laugh again.
Our home-tracing and family reunification work
This is an integral part of Laughter Africa’s approach, through which social workers trace the street children’s families in the hope that the parties can be reunited. Reunification with their families is dependent on whether the family situation is safe and secure. If this is not the case, for instance if there is sexual or physical abuse known to have taken place, then an alternative long-term home will be found. Before reuniting a child with their family, we work with both parties to understand the reasons that led to the child turning to the streets in the first place. Our goal is to ensure that the child feels happier and the original issues that precipitated their move on to the streets are resolved.
Once the child is reunited with their family, we don’t forget about them. They still remain part of the Laughter Africa family. We keep in touch with each child and their family to check on their progress and make sure that all is well. The families of the children have our staffs’ phone numbers so they can call us anytime. If any problems arise then we’ll try to lend a hand before the child is tempted by the streets again. We also offer support such as paying for the child’s school fees or vocational training to ensure that they have a bright future ahead of them so that the streets become a distant memory.