The feeding program is one of the most wonderful parts of our project and something we know is needed and valued. These are children and young people who have nothing and in the times of COVID-19 are at huge risk of starving to death as well as risking their lives with the many simple injuries that we might take for granted if they happened to us.
As well as feeding our street family, we also make sure that they have access to medical and dental care. We have ensured that our boys have their many injuries attended to; we have given them access to antibiotics through the hospitals who wouldn’t treat them before; we have taken them to have broken bones fixed and illness attended to and medicated. We had one young boy screaming in agony when he had an ulcer under one of his teeth. He couldn’t eat or sleep and we don’t know what would have happened if we hadn’t been there to help him.
We have helped a very vulnerable mama and her four-month-old son leave the streets and return to a healthier and safer way of living in a small house in town.
Our staff spend their days with the boys. They don’t just turn up to organise their food. They arrange showers and washing facilities for their bodies and clothes. They sing, they dance, and they chat while some boys share their heart wrenching stories. The boys look forward to them arriving at their base camp in town and they look like a big, slightly dysregulated family.
So how did it all go so wrong one day last week?
Why was one of our beloved Aunties targeted and attacked by the very boys she has recently dedicated her life to?
Why was she hidden in a small kiosk because of the risk to her life until the danger had passed?
The day started like all the days at the feeding project with check-in, singing, storytelling and laughter, until one of the boys who attended the big boys project arrived and was acting very angry towards the small boys. He sought out our Aunty Conci and grabbed her phone. He and two friends, who are not part of our project, started to man-handle her and scream at her. They threatened her life and looked ready to carry that threat out. The boy, who we had helped with medical treatment as well as food was furious, high on drugs and dysregulated. He believed that Conci had laughed at him a few days earlier when he had an altercation with a member of the public.
Those of you who know Conci will know she is one of the most gentle and kindest people you could ever meet. She cares deeply for all children and is always the first to step forward to help a child in need.
She is sensible and has an understanding of how traumatised children might react in given situations.
But she didn’t see this coming. No-one did. This boy had been angry a few days previously and it was Conci that sat with him until he was calm. But today he was out for blood and that blood pumped inside Conci. She was terrified and without the prompt reaction of other staff and other boys we could be reporting a very different story.
The project shielded Conci and got her away from danger. We have our therapeutic team caring for and helping her. We had to close the feeding program for a few days whilst we thought what was the best way to support and care for our staff as well as our boys. If the staff had refused to return, we would have understood. But they haven’t. They all met (social distancing and with masks) and decided that Rafiki Mwema needed to employ a local man who helped us that day and is often around, who the boys like but also respect. When he is there the levels of disruption are minimal. He is not aggressive but is known to the boys and his presence helps keep control.
So feeding is resumed from today with a new member on our team. We will monitor and address difficulties as they arise as always. We will have meetings and trainings to minimise the risk. But the risk is real. We are talking about a community who deal with altercations with their own court and doesn’t back down from conflict.
And yet these are the same boys that shed tears for what was threatened to Conci; who are outraged at what happened towards someone they care about. These are the families that are sending messages of support and sorrow to our team. Who wait for the program to reopen its gates to get the food and the connection they so desperately need. We thank our staff and pray for their safety and will not hesitate to close if anyone’s life is at risk.
We have launched our Rafiki Feeding Program sponsorship over on our website here where you can make a donation of any amount. If you sign up for a monthly donation of any amount you will receive an email each month to update you of our achievements thanks to the funding provided by our wonderful sponsors.