My last blog looked at the story behind Heaven Homes, a charity formed by Sierra Leonean Kippy Agyei who has been living in the UK since the age of 13 when her family were caught up in the political unrest of the civil war.
This time I talked with Chloe Brett of Street Child, a charity formed in 2008 by Tom Dannatt, son of former Army Chief General Sir Richard Dannatt.
Street Child came to prominence in the print and TV media for their unique reporting from the ground during the Ebola crisis in 2014. About 90% of their work is in Sierra Leone, the rest in Liberia. Fundraising activity comes through the UK office. A second office has recently been opened in the USA specifically to support their work in Liberia, a logical step in light of past colonial links between the two countries.
The organisation that has today become Street Child Sierra Leone was already working with kids living on the streets when Tom Dannatt came across them. Tom set up Street Child in the UK to support their work.
As with ActionAid and Heaven Homes, the purpose of Street Child is embodied in the name. Their core activity is moving kids off the streets to live with their natural or adoptive families so they can be cared for and go to school. The demand for their work increased dramatically when Ebola led to a surge in the number of orphans.
To date over 10,000 children have been helped, but this is just the beginning. Street Child estimates that over 50,000 children are dependent on the streets for their survival, with 3,000 living there. The significant number of girls who survive through commercial sex work are a key target.
Street Child has shown considerable flair in their work as shown in these areas:
BUILDING SCHOOLS: The focus is on building basic schools in remote rural areas where there has never been one before. Local adults are trained as teachers through distance learning during the holidays. Although at a basic level, there are now 400 teachers in schools across a wide range of rural communities. The schools are encouraged to become financially self-sufficient. Advice, grants and technical support are given to develop collective farms which cultivate rice or groundnuts. The interest earnt by the school from providing the farmers with seeds is then used to finance teacher salaries and other expenses.
FAMILY BUSINESS SCHEME: Families that take care of a child from the street are supported with advice and grants aimed at developing petty trading and other small business activities. The money they earn means they can afford to send the child to school. Seed capital is typically around £40, and the woman is then expected to save about £1 a week for 20 weeks in a bank account with Street Child who then return it as further funding. Failure to keep up the £1 a week saving acts as a warning sign and a social worker is sent to investigate the problem. The business scheme works best in urban areas where more economic activity exists.
COMMERCIAL ENTERPRISE: Street Child run a number of cafes and shops with The Clubhouse in Makeni the flagship enterprise. The aim is to create successful social businesses whose profits can fund Street Child’s work with kids, as well as providing employment and developing the local economy through associated activity.
SIERRA LEONE MARATHON: Forget New York, London and Berlin- Makeni in Sierra Leone is the place to run a marathon! The brainchild of Street Child’s UK based Chairman, the first event was run in 2012 and £1 million has been raised since. Each year around 120 runners travel from the UK to see Street Child’s work, raising an impressive £250,000 through marathon sponsorship. This year’s run is on October 24th – contact Street Child for more information about taking part.
Street Child has come a long way since 2008 and is making a real difference to lives in Sierra Leone and Liberia. With their drive, commitment and creativity they are sure to help many more people.