Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Streetkids voices

Following some initial discussion, we decided to launch the project with an interview with some of the older leading streetkids. I’m guessing they were 17-21 and had been in this position snce they were 12-13.
Jonathan had an intellectual look to him and was the first to speak. I asked about his aspirations and he said he wanted to settle down and provide for a family. He wanted to set up a second hand clothes business, if only he could gather up some capital.
John looked more serious and talked about wanting to start a business selling shoes. He was in Nakuru most of the week taking people’s luggage from one point to another – usually 20 shillings (20p) charged. He said some people only gave him 10 and there was little he could do about it. At the end of the week he travels home to Entegee, some distance away.
Jackson was a likeable young man, but unfortunately spaced out on glue during the interview and also later on when we met him. He said his mother died seven years previous and all he wanted was something to do and somewhere stable to live. I asked him about education and he said that he had attended the Gumbaro Catholic adult education until it closed down.
Daniel came to Nakuru when he was 12, after his mother had died. Initially he had worked for someone, but had felt exploited as child labour and left to seek his own fortune, ending up on the streets. He was an intellectual, spoke the best English of the group, and had many sensible suggestions and clearly had his own plan, which he was trying hard to implement under these hard circumstances.
I asked them about food and they mostly said that they had to rely on whatever was cheapest. Cost of food had gone up a lot recently and they had been forced to exist on very poor food. Jackson said he was allowed to collect leftovers from the restaurant in Gilani’s in return for helping clear up.
I asked them what happened when they were sick and they said that they clubbed together as a group and took the sick one to the local hostel, where they were able to receive free medical care. At least there was something for them, but there was no one to help Jackson kick his habit, thus avoiding mental illness as an adult.
They talked about gangs a bit – each had a territory, but it didn’t seem like they fought much, but perhaps there was more to hear about this and the gang taxation and also the young girls on the streets.
I asked if people were kind and the boys said usually people were. My host Esther talked about the streetboys fondly, as young men who had lost their way – not the delinquents so often presumed. The Police, however, were often pursuing the streetkids because of the glue habit. Also, Daniel was worried that, if he were able to find money to start selling goods on the street, then the Police would take all his stock, unless he had a Council licence, which was expensive.

Daniel also said that the glue sniffing started younger, when the kids were more vulnerable and more easily led and perhaps more stressed about their own safety. They said they now had nothing to do with the younger kids, who went around in larger groups for their own protection. Some of them, they said, were kids who had lost their parents during the post election troubles in 2007, either because their parents were dead or because they had never been re-united. They did not know either way. The younger streetkids usually took jobs in helping find parking places for cars.

Then we talked about Repacted. They didn’t know much about the organisation, nor the theatre, but they seemed to leap at the chance to be involved in some acting. Collins Oduor from Repacted suggested to them that they could make a play all about themselves and their issues and then perform it to others so they could understand them better and this enthused them, enough that they volunteered to recruit for the session from all the streetkids in the city. They said they would find acrobats, actors and footballers on the street – many talents that could be shown off on stage.
Ceris took their picture and then we let them go and asked them to keep coming back to the theatre to find out if the session was going to happen.
I think it will, as these youngsters are ready to be helped…

I'm hoping we can raise a little bit of money for this small discrete group, to get them involved in theatre - mail me (or post) if you think you can assist.

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