Harriet James @PeopleDailyKe
It’s Thursday 5pm. Most people at this time are rushing home from work, trying to escape the snarl-up that builds up in the Highridge area at this time of the day.
While all this is going on, a group of street children and families are gathered at the Highridge pop in, an open area, waiting for their meal.
I learnt about the Homeless of Nairobi project and opted to spend one Thursday as a volunteer to learn more about this noble project in a city that perceives the homeless as an eyesore. They are a group of devoted people running different charity homes who come together every Thursday to give food to the homeless.
They also assist each other bear the challenges of running the charities. Pinky Manji, an expert in pranic healing, desired to assist the less fortunate in the society.
She began searching for like-minded people to assist her feed the street children that she met everyday on her way home. She met Salma Shah, Praveen Chauhan and Nishua Popatia and together they formed the Earth Angels Foundation to feed the homeless. At first, it was a once-in-a-while project, but later on it became a weekly one.
All their activities took place at Jeffery Sports Club in Lavington, but they encountered a challenge when the club refused to host them and they had to look for an alternative place.
In addition, they had to look for someone to teach them how to run the programme.
That’s how they met Clifford Chianga, popularly known as ‘Odicho’ who mentored them on how to run the programme. Chianga, an educator by profession, runs a charity and a children’s home in Gachie too. “We met Cliff, who was at that time running a feeding programme in Deep Sea, Gachie. We learnt a lot from him on how to run the programme,” says Praveen, the Secretary of the Earth Angels Foundation.
Peter Nduati of I Africa, a centre that rehabilitates street boys and their families and Fredrick Mwaura of Joy Divine Organisation also participate in the Thursday feeding programme. Together, the four organisations make up the homeless of Nairobi project and they assist each other in managing their individual homes too.
They donate food and clothes whenever they have excess and advise each other in case of difficulties. “We visit and help each other, especially with advice on how to handle tough children.
Doing this can be draining at times and being there for each other assists in debriefing,” says Mwaura. In a recent study by the Consortium of Street Children, there are approximately between 250,000 and 300,000 homeless people in Kenya. Nearly 60,000 of them live on the streets of Nairobi.
“We talk about our challenges. It’s not easy to bear such a load.
Sometimes we bury some of the children because of accidents or we have to deal with police cases when the children are in trouble,” adds Chianga.
For Praveen of Earth Angels Foundation, taking nine children to school are some of their achievements.
They started their feeding programme to bring the families’ close enough to the point whether they could relate to them. The challenge is that some of the children run away when placed in schools by the donors.
In other instances, they may receive children who desire to go to a boarding school, but there is no cash available to fulfil their wishes. “Sometimes trusting them is a challenge.
We wait until a child shows persistence that they want to study and that’s when we step in and pay for their fees,” says Praveen. In addition to that, the ability to find donors to finance such a project is a challenge.
Despite the fact that a restaurant has dedicated itself to providing a hot meal everyday, most people believe that feeding the homeless is not a great course. They desire to bring in other restaurants to give them leftover foods to assist them feed the families in the 12 feeding centres they plan to create.
“They are human beings like us. Once you come into contact with them, you feel their need to be loved and accepted. A smile from us makes all the difference,” says Popatia, Earth Angel Foundation’s treasurer.
For Peter Nduati, Founder of I Africa, his greatest challenge is finding people willing to counsel the homeless. During the feeding programme, he met a young man, Kennedy Ndirangu, who he has been trying to help for 15 years, but with little success. The man has been jailed several times and kicked out of his house.
It is Nduati’s mission to ensure that he reforms and is reunited with his family. “Most of these people only need love to change. We need to find ways of giving them hand ups not handouts for them to start businesses that will get them out of the streets,” advises Nduati.