Across the world this December, children are counting down the days on their chocolate-filled advent calendars until Christmas Eve, Santa Claus’ big night, when many of these children will struggle to sleep in joyful excitement and anticipation for what might await them in the stocking at the end of their warm beds come Christmas morning.
However, on the streets of Thika, and on many a street across the world, in major towns and cities from London to Rio de Janeiro and from Durban to Mumbai, children’s sleep is restless for other reasons. Many of the children we work with will wake up from a night sleeping on the street and the first thing they reach for will not be the fur-topped, bright red stocking at the end of their bed, but for the bottle they have hidden in their torn, dirt-soaked jacket they used as a pillow, in which contains some glue from which they inhale, enabling them to function as the new day emerges. Instead of running excited into their parents’ bedroom to play with their new toy, they may instead walk slowly to the local supermarket, outside of which they will wait until a member of the public not with their family or in Church may take pity on them and give them some milk, some bread, or something sweet. Even better, they might receive some loose change which they can use to buy glue or another drug, which they can take to numb the increasingly acute hunger pains.
Some children we work with, however, may not necessarily be on the street in the morning, but maybe back with their ‘family’. This ‘family’ will often have one of the parents absent, either having passed away from HIV/AIDS, or due to a divorce, and the other parent is often addicted to alcohol, often leading to violent and abusive treatment of the child. Children on the streets of Thika are often not ‘orphans’ in that neither of their parents are alive, but these hugely dysfunctional family settings will be a huge push factor for them to go to the streets in the first place, even at Christmas.
Each child we work with is unique, and will have a completely different life story up to this point, yet all of them will have some key things in common that shape how they view life, and what their priorities for Christmas are. This December, their priorities will not revolve around which gift they receive or what their friend got, it will be about getting food in their stomachs to last the day without severe hunger pains, and it will be to avoid, where possible, the physical and sexual abuse that so many of them suffer on a daily basis both from adults and the other boys, often the older, more street hardy ones.
As 2013 approaches, we would love you to partner with us to help just one child to have a better Christmas next year. Helping us does not just mean giving money, though it is often the easiest and most tangible way we can help these children. It can also be as simple as telling 5 friends about AfCiC and the work we do, or tweeting and facebooking about us. All it takes is just 5 minutes and you have contributed, opening up a new network of potential supporters. Make one of your new years’ resolutions to help spread the word about AfCiC at your workplace, your church, or with your friends (or all 3!). Happy Christmas from all of us and thank you for your continued help, interest and support.