Street and Working Children

Our Street Children project entails the following activities;

  • Nutrition

We provide food for boys and girls living and working on the street and in the hidden sector. Meals are provided in the morning and at lunch time for both boys and girls at the drop in centre. HOVIC extended week day meals to the weekend too. In addition, boys who are staying at the night shelter have a meal there every evening.

 

  • Health Care through medical assessment, treatment and referral

HOVIC has two full-time nurses who run the treatment room at the drop-in Centre. They carry out a health assessment of every new child that is enrolled and provide treatment for all children. They give special attention to children with ‘special needs’. In this project, they have referred and supported seven boys and two girls who are HIV+; and two boys with disabilities. HOVIC medical staff also refer children to the local hospitals and work with the hospital staff to reduce discrimination and to help the children access good services.

  •  Raising awareness on HIV/AIDS

Health staff and social workers carry out life-skills classes to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS and STI's, using focus group discussions to involve children in learning together. In 2009, HOVIC joined with Port Florence Hospital and Omega to run an HIV awareness event, providing voluntary testing and counseling at the drop-in Centre. 78 boys and one girl took HIV tests as a result, of whom four boys were HIV positive. HOVIC now plans to provide this service annually. When a child is HIV positive, HOVIC takes them to a local clinic for regular check-ups, supervises their adherence to the anti-retro viral drugs and encourages them and their families/ guardians to take responsibility for following the treatment correctly. HOVIC’s nurse is a trained HIV counselor so she, as well as the HOVIC counselor, support the children with pre and post test counseling.

  • Formal and Non formal Education

HOVIC provides non-formal education to all the children who come to the drop-in Centre. Non-formal education is a pathway to formal education. It enables the children to readjust to learning. HOVIC has three qualified teachers who first assess the children’s level through reading, writing and oral tests. Based on this, they divide children into two groups: one comprising standards 1-6; then another from standard 7 upwards.

Formal education is then provided for children who have been reintegrated with their families or settled into foster families. Depending on the family situation, HOVIC will cover the full costs of education for some children. Most of the children go to local government schools or faith-based schools.

 HOVIC also offers vocational training to the older girls and boys in three different ways:

• In-house training: Girls learn tailoring from a HOVIC trainer while the boys learn soap-stone carving and carpentry. Profits from the products HOVIC sells, contribute to HOVIC’s budget.

• Apprenticeships: HOVIC supports willing older boys to do six-month apprenticeships, such as car mechanics, with local businesses in the area surrounding the drop-in Centre.

• Vocational training colleges: HOVIC supports some older boys to do two year courses in local vocational training colleges to study building and masonry.

  • Psychosocial support

 HOVIC provides both one-to-one and group counseling sessions with the children, with special attention to girls and those addicted to drugs. The children are not allowed to bring any glue, tobacco or other drugs to the centre such that they can stop abusing drugs. The counselor also runs ‘child to child communication’ groups, where children are trained to support and counsel each other.

  • Shelter

In 2009, HOVIC opened a night shelter for boys in a converted house. The night shelter has space for about 30-40 boys who are divided into three rooms to separate older and younger ones; and those who are newer to the shelter. The shelter provides bunk beds, blankets and a recreation room with a television. HOVIC uses the night shelter for boys that have expressed a willingness to go back to their own homes or a foster home and to return to formal education.

  • Reintegration with families

When children come to the drop-in Centre, the social workers and counselor carry out an initial assessment of their needs and background. They refer children who express an interest in returning to home and school to the night shelter; and spend time counseling the others. Once a child chooses to go home, social workers will visit the family, usually with the child. They might leave the child at home during that first visit or, if there are difficulties in getting the family to accept the child, they will bring him/ her back to the shelter for longer. Where they cannot trace the family or decide that the child cannot stay at home (either because of the child or family’s unwillingness), they look for a foster family.  Some are families who are willing to look after a child without additional support from HOVIC. Once a child is placed in a home, HOVIC discusses and agrees with the family the areas where they will support the child and where the family has to take responsibility. They sometimes involve others in the community, such as the local chief or church leader. The social workers make follow-up visits to their home every quarter to monitor their progress – or more often, if they believe they need more support.

  • Advocacy programmes to influence children friendly policies

In addition to providing shelter for the boys, HOVIC has encouraged children to look out for each other on the streets and to report back problems. Staff have left phone numbers with reunified children so they can call if they need help. HOVIC has also provided legal support to children in conflict with the law and/ or who are victims of crime. It has worked with groups at community and district level that influence children’s lives and has carried out and participated in some wider advocacy events to raise awareness of children’s rights.

When asked about the influence of the programme, the children’s responses include:

 

  • Stopped glue-sniffing/ alcohol abuse
  • No stealing
  • Learned how to be respectful
  • Stopped fighting/ disciplined
  • Treated with respect
  • Learned that going to school was good
  • Wanting to go home
  • Improved our language
  • Helps us talk to people on the streets
  • Learned how to behave in society
  • Learned how to abstain from sex Self-esteem 

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