KENYA, Africa — Each day parents across the U.S. practically have to drag their children out of bed as the children beg to stay home from school.
Meanwhile, in Kenya, thousands of children wake up near trash piles, unaware of where their parents are.
No one is yelling that breakfast is ready. No one is reminding them to wash behind their ears or to brush their teeth.
In 2002, the East African Standard, a national newspaper in Kenya, reported a conservative estimate of 250,000 children living on the streets in urban areas of Kenya.
These children are often involved in theft, drug trafficking, assault, trespassing and property damage. Some face harassment, as well as physical and sexual abuse from police and within the juvenile justice system, according to the newspaper.
In Kikuyu, Kenya, some children are getting off the streets with help from a child rehabilitation center.
The center, which the Presbyterian Church of East Africa runs, started in 2001 with 19 children.
It began as a feeding program for children of single mothers but has stemmed into a center for underprivileged children.
Stephen Kabuba, a Presbyterian minister who helped start the center, says educating the street children creates a new future for the children.
“When they grow up, and they are strong, and they’re not taken care of, they become not now begging but demanding, ‘Give me your vehicle keys, or I shoot you,” Kabuba says. “Before, they were begging, ‘Give me a schilling or I smear you with human waste.’”
Oftentimes street children use one hand to beg and with the other hand hold human waste and threaten to smear it on someone who won’t give them money, Kabuba says.
Before the center, street children would not be able to attend school, but the Presbyterian church pays for all the costs the child or child’s family would have to pay.
“The church saw the need of not only feeding their stomachs but also their minds,” says David Wakogy, the administrator for the center.
Wakogy says church members hope to raise enough money to someday have boarding for the children.
The center doesn’t have any sponsors for children yet, Wakogy says.
The cost of sponsoring a child is $30, which includes food, medical supplies and administrative fees.
Wakogy says anyone who wants to sponsor a child can contact him at David Wakogy, P.O. Box 1644, 00902 Kikuyu, Kenya.
Those who can’t send money are welcome to volunteer at the center, Wakogy says.
Kabuba says the center gives the children who have so much potential an opportunity they would have never had.
“The only way to untap that potential is take them to school,” Kabuba says. “These children are not foolish. Because they are born in a poor family doesn’t mean they are poor mentally.”