Hope on the streets for children
Rebecca Rempel | Zambia
Abuse, violence, HIV, child trafficking, natural disasters, migration to cities from rural communities, the breakdown of the family structure, civil unrest - these are some of the many reasons why a child might become one of the estimated 10.5 million children under the age of 18 living on the streets in Africa.
Street children are generally hard to work with due to addictions, wild behaviour, criminal activities, prostitution and the influence of gang leaders and pimps. Some people also believe that they are evil, demon-possessed and cannot be helped.
With 17 years of experience in Sudan working with street children, Christine Jones from the UK knows that they can indeed be helped and is working to change people’s perceptions.
“God called me to work with homeless children in Africa when I was nine years old,” Christine shared. “It breaks my heart to see suffering children fending for themselves and demonized on the streets.”
Currently based in Zambia, Christine and three others formed “Africa Area Hope on the Streets for Children”; an OM ministry that trains people to help the African church become aware of the needs of street children and what they can do to help, whether through prayer, finances or the start of a ministry focused on street children.
The churches are encouraged to network and connect with one another to share resources, form area committees and hold discussion forums.
“Our vision is that the African church will become a good family to the street children and youths,” said Christine.
“If the church can catch the vision then it can expand way beyond us,” she continued. “The projects will never be run by us, or belong to us, but will be run by and belong to the local churches. If this happens, thousands of children will find love, friendship, hope, help, a way out of their suffering and most important of all - know there is a saviour who loves them and who sees their suffering.”
Training sessions are held multiple times throughout the year at the OM Zambia base in Kabwe.
Six students graduated from the three-month program in March and have moved on to complete practicals with various ministries, while a new class begins in May. Workers from other fields will be invited for three weeks of training prior to the annual Love Africa conference in August in addition to distance learning.
The team has also connected with the Kabwe Pastor’s Fellowship group, who formed a Street Children’s Ministry Committee as a result of their friendship. Working together, the committee is looking to see how a transitional, sustainable programme can be established in Kabwe to reach out to children living on the streets.
In March God opened the door for 45 police officers in Kabwe to receive training on dealing with traumatized children. Consisting of two phases, each phase includes one week in class and a month of distance learning followed by exams.
The officers made comments such as “[the teaching] has changed the way we handle children,” “it has changed even my family life,” “we have implemented child-friendly areas,” and “it has helped me understand my own trauma and has changed my life.”
Makululu is the second biggest shanty town in sub-Saharan Africa. With high poverty rates and low literacy rates, life is hard for the 60,000 people who call Makululu home.
Hope on the Streets for Children is networking with ministries within the shanty town who are helping the community recognise its problems and find solutions, start child-to-child education and run a women’s empowerment programme through skills training.
Once a team has been established in Kabwe, the core team will conduct training in other countries, helping them replicate the Kabwe model.
“It takes a long time to train people,” explained Christine. “I am the only person who has both training and experience, so this is slowing down establishing the work. We need experienced, trained people to join us… we have many calls to train and not enough people.”
Pray for God to raise up others to join this important outreach in loving street children.
Published: Tuesday, 19 April 2016
Credit: Rebecca Rempel