The Key to Securing Self-Sufficient Futures for Street Kids

04/06/2017 04:12 pm ET

In my questionable kiSwahili recall, Pepo La Tumaini means “Winds of Hope.” It must be an accurate translation though because Pepo La Tumaini and Jitegemee are both organizations bringing powerful, positive forces to bear on the lives of street kids. These children are too often cast aside by development organizations as being so inexorably lost that no hope for their rehabilitation remains. Here is a guest post written by Sarah Kruger, Executive Director of Pepo La Tumaini, that proves otherwise.

Tumaini Senior School in Isiolo offers an educational model that is unique in Kenya, designed to support children who are unable to fit into the formal government system. It teaches a full program of vocational training and life skills alongside an academic syllabus. Our partner Segal Family Foundation introduced us to fellow grantee Jitegemee, an NGO in Machackos that provides vulnerable children with access to both formal academic learning and vocational training through mentorship projects and sponsorships.

We visited Jitegemee recently to learn about alternative approaches to offering vocational training to vulnerable youth (especially street children) in Kenya, and to discuss the challenges and successful approaches to monitoring and evaluating our progress.

Jitegemee and Pepo La Tumaini both target street youth who, due to turbulent childhoods and a severe lack of formal education, are not academically or personally suited to go on to secondary education upon graduating from primary school. The vocational training option is therefore key to securing positive, self-sufficient, and sustainable futures for children and their families. The major challenge is how to nurture these children to become self-reliant members of their community and help them develop trade skills that will benefit the community as a whole.

Dependency from students and families who expect continued support is a common challenge for both organizations. We discussed the importance of reuniting children with family members and nurturing a sense of responsibility for both the child and their education by encouraging involvement in project activities. At the same time, adopting a give-and-take model for the child enables them to earn more self-respect while not becoming completely dependent on their ‘sponsors.’

We strive to create opportunities for students to work and become owners of the organization. The concept of community ownership and the focus on developing a child-centered approach is at the heart of our work at Pepo La Tumaini. Visiting Jitegemee helped affirm the relevance of such an approach when trying to empower families and individuals to make positive changes in their lives. I left considering how reflective our monitoring and evaluation results can be when we only measure the numbers of how many students completed their apprenticeships, how many were able to get jobs, and how many completed their exams. Besides proving to our donors that we are doing what we say we are and that we are worth the investment, what do these numbers really tell us?

During our trip, we were lucky enough to meet up with Tumaini Senior School alumni: Wario Yusuf in Machakos and Betty Nyekesa in Kibera. Wario is working as an assistant mechanic and Betty is enjoying using her skills in painting, hairdressing, and cooking. In our numbers, they are counted as school dropouts—but in life they are proving to be great success stories.

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