I have a hard time thinking of a group that is more marginalized
than children who live on the street. Forgotten. Neglected.
When you see a dirty boy clutching a bottle of glue and lying in
the gutter in a city in the world's poorest places, it is hard to
know what to do. Often, you just want to walk quickly past. Knowing
that 100 million children are living on the streets right now is
impossible and sad beyond belief.
100 million boys and girls like Philip and his friends.
Sometimes, the best thing that can happen in the face of great,
big problems is to shine as bright a light as you can on them. The
world's orphaned and neglected children, the forgotten, the poorest
of the poor - they really need that light.
One of the teams of researchers in our Kenya partnership studies
issues involving street children, especially the risks they face
from things like substance abuse. Our team just published
an analysis in the journal Addictions looking at substance use
among street children around the world. The review makes it clear
that substance use is incredibly common among these children, and
they face all the risks that go along with using drugs while their
bodies and brains are still developing. If you look at that photo
that Philip took, the boy has one hand on the precious soccer ball
they found in the trash and a bottle of glue in the other hand.
I'm thrilled this publication on street children has been
featured in some other places like the
Toronto Star and the
Voice of America, with interviews with my colleague Paula
Braitstein. It also highlights the work my friends have done at the
Tumaini Children's Drop-In
Centre to empower and serve street children here in western
Kenya. If you want to do something for children on the streets,
support the Tumaini Centre.
In poor places, children often turn to things like glue to numb
their hunger, cold, and the pain in their hearts. Substance use
among street children is a complicated problem to try to solve, but
shining a bright light on their needs is a good start.