Following the death of his mother, Paul, 14 years old, went to live with his grandparents. Life was not easy for him as he struggled to cope. He again lost his grandfather, the only person he looked up to as a father figure. Later, his relationship with his grandmother worsened, and he soon found himself on the streets. He was rescued and had to get help to cope with his traumatic experiences.
Paul was born and raised in Kajiado County, Kenya. Paul and his mother lived in a single-room rented house with no water or electricity. They also had no proper sanitation facilities or playground. Paul’s mother worked as a casual labourer; selling groceries and earning about 67 Euros a month. Through her earnings, she was able to provide for herself and her son. Paul adds that he never met or heard from his father.
Paul went to school as usual and when he was in class 4, his family relocated to their rural home due to the unstable income from his mother’s business. Upon arrival, he joined a nearby primary school and continued with his studies until class 7 when tragedy struck. In February 2022, he lost his mother in a grisly road accident. He was in complete despair. He dropped out of school and went to live with his maternal grandparents. Unfortunately, soon after moving in with his grandparents, Paul lost his grandfather, whom he looked up to as a father figure. “From time to time my grandfather appeared to me in my dreams asking me to join him and my mother in the other world,” Paul recounts. He says he saw imaginary things in the house that he could not explain after losing his grandfather. As a result of the trauma, Paul’s relationship with his grandmother deteriorated and thus he ran away from his grandparents’ home to a nearby town to look for his uncle. Unfortunately, his efforts were unsuccessful and he ended up in the streets.
Life in the streets was tough and Paul depended on begging for money from shoppers outside and scavenging in order to get food to survive. At night Paul slept outside closed shops together with other street children. He was vulnerable to exploitation in the streets. He was unable to access amenities like proper sanitation and hence was exposed to many health hazards like malnutrition and illnesses. In September, 2022, Paul and other street children were arrested by the police and locked up in a nearby police station. The following day, the police, together with the Directorate of Children’s Services (DCS) referred Paul to Action for Children in Conflict.
Paul was identified in August 2022 as part of the street connected children who were sensitised about the Time to Play project. The project aims to transform children through sports, create a safe environment where children can play and express themselves. He later joined the beneficiary group that forms the project's 40 street connected children. Thereafter, Paul was taken to rehabilitation before being reintegrated back in school and with his family. Currently, he is on a care plan session that will end in December 2022. Engagements with his grandmother to find a solution to the push factor that led him to the street are being looked into. “I had no hope of the situation changing for me. But now I have adapted to living at the rescue centre," Paul said. Since its inception, the Time to Play project has facilitated the children with playing equipment and trained 40 street connected children as coaches, mentors, mediators and referees to run, manage and oversee play for other children.
Initially when Paul became part of the project, he had low self-esteem and could not express himself well. Now, his self-esteem and confidence has improved significantly. He has a daily routine that involves informal learning to prepare him for reunion with his family and community, and going back to formal learning. In addition, he is also being provided with nutritional support, psychosocial support, counselling, basic literacy and numeracy among others. Paul’s routine has improved and he is able to plan well and looks forward to heading back to school in January 2023. “I find the program helpful since I learn alot about child rights and life skills during the daily sessions. I have also been undergoing counselling and it is really helpful as it has increased my self esteem and confidence,” he said confidently. Paul not only feels good being part of the program but has also learned how to talk and express himself, as well as play with other children at the centre. "l feel good being in the program. I also enjoy playing football and watching action movies. I want to be successful at whatever I do so that I can overcome any obstacles that come my way in life," Paul concluded.