Mary’s Meals Programmes Officer, Emma Turner, gives us an update on her recent visit to our projects in Eldoret, Kenya.
Eldoret is an industrial town in Western Kenya which is home to many large slums and thousands of street children.
Children, mainly boys, arrive in Eldoret from vulnerable areas of Kenya, particularly the arid northern areas and refugee camps, in the hope of finding a better life for themselves. The sad reality is that Eldoret has little to offer run-away children but a life on the streets, sniffing glue to dull hunger pains and sorting through rubbish for scrap metal to sell.
Mary’s Meals is working in several large primary schools in and around Eldoret. The head teachers are extremely committed and dedicated to the cause of getting more street children into the classrooms.
One head teacher I met at a Mary’s Meals supported school, Jane Mamalo, told me about a young boy, John, who had recently run away from Dadaab camp – a lawless and dangerous refugee camp near Somalia. He arrived in Eldoret on the back of a truck with nothing to his name.
On his first night he was sleeping on the street in the town centre and was so badly beaten by the police that a passer-by later found him and took him to hospital. A doctor at the hospital contacted Jane and asked if she would be able to take him into her school so the boy could benefit from the school feeding programme there.
When Jane went to meet the boy, he said: “But if I go to school I won’t eat”. Jane was happy to be able to tell him that coming to her school meant the promise of a daily meal for every child. Her belief is ‘to win the mind you must pass through the stomach’.
When I asked if there was room for John, she laughed and said: “The schools in Kenya are never full” – in reference to the law that no child is to be refused enrolment at a government primary school whatever their age or circumstance. John is now in a nearby children’s home and a pupil in grade 5 and is coming to school on a regular basis.
All the schools we are supporting in Eldoret take in large numbers of street children like John. The school feeding is what makes the school a particular haven for these street children – a chance to have a hot meal in a safe and secure environment.