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Whose job is it to take care of the street children?

Children begging during traffic jam via one on Kampala’s streets. PHOTO BY Michael Kakumirizi

Nobody knows exactly how many children are living on the streets right now. Trace Uganda, a registered non-profit organization that seeks to empower disadvantaged slum and street children to find fulfilling alternatives to street life estimated about 2,000 to 10,000 street children in Kampala alone, but we can’t know for certain.

We do know, however, that there are thousands who call the street their home.

In a 71-page report, “‘Where Do You Want Us to Go?’ Human Rights Watch cited abuses against Street Children in Uganda by police and local government officials, as well as abuses by members of the community and older homeless children and adults.

The report said Police and other officials, including those from the Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA), have beaten, extorted money from, and arbitrarily detained street children after targeted roundups.

As I write, Activist wants people offering money to street children arrested.

Innocent Byaruhanga, a former street child and executive director of Save Street Children Uganda said  April 12 that Ugandans should stop giving money to street children to enable government and other organizations take children off the streets.

He believes handing out a few coins results in sense of helplessness as this donation often goes to their “beggar masters,” drugs or to parents who often spend it on alcohol or illegal substances.

“We advocate for better lives for street children and giving them money should be discouraged. KCCA should start arresting these people,” Byaruhanga said.

According to Eternal perspective Ministries, a Christ-centered nonprofit organization, there are 100 million street children in the world [today] and by the year 2020 they will have reached 800 million in number.

With such agonizing figures and fading hope as to whether a day will come with no young child roaming the streets, one is forced to wonder whose job is it to take care of the street children?

One could say God. After all, Jesus does talk a lot about His followers’ responsibility for taking care of the downtrodden, poor and oppressed.

We certainly cannot leave everything to government and a few centralized charity groups.

Therefore, how can you help when money is clearly not the only answer? If you read about the parable about the sheep and the goats, Matthew 25: 31–46, it’s easy to walk away with the impression that eternal life rests entirely upon whether or not a person cares for “the least of these.”

Christ’s major point is that He cares about what happens to the those on society’s bottom-rung. It would be irresponsible for Christians to not encourage everyone to do all that they can to protect them.

Knowing that they have not only been damaged by their homeless state, but also by the constant sexual, physical and emotional abuse, makes saying “no” a tortuous task.

The simplest and the most valuable thing you can give to a child is time. Rather than brushing them off to make your way to the next site, spend some time to ask them their names, what they like to do, or their favorite games. Simple gestures of love are sometimes all a street child needs to completely make a U turn.

Innocent Byaruhanga noted that giving things such as pens, candies or clothes may seem like a great alternative, but it often leads to a whole slew of problems. Not only does it breed materialism, it also promotes unhealthy competition and makes them view begging as a “fun” possibility which prompts others to even run away from resettlement centers.

Just because the jingling coins in your pocket are rendered useless on the street, remember that there are still ways to shell out those pennies without the guilt.

You can head over to the local church, charity group, schools or organizations looking after former street children and donate material and other learning paraphernalia.

James Kabogoza, a child specialist and former Assistant commissioner for Children affairs says Ugandans should treat street children like any other children for them to experience a better life.

Kabogoza told a state linked news daily, there is need to address the factors that are pushing children on streets instead of focusing on chasing them away.

Motta Africa, a gospel artiste and founder of Baba Yangu Foundation; a Ugandan-based NGO working with less privileged Children believes the children deserve a second chance.

“They also have dreams – For the time I have had sharing and loving these children, I have come to realize that if given a chance they can become great citizens. Some of the children turn to pick-pocketing and substance abuse just to fit within their peer,” he says.

“Many abuse drugs due to peer pressure, and to relieve themselves from daily stress, forget the conditions they are in or to fill in the gap of boredom,” he adds.

Motta Africa frequents Kisenyi slums with not just food but spiritual support to street Children.

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