By Golden Mgonzo, Executive Director, April 2014
Children's Rights Clubs
One of the major goals of the Shalom Centre for Street Chikdren is to facilitate strengthening child protection systems in Arusha.
First, Shalom strives to work with schools and teachers through promoting Child Rights Clubs in schools, thereby creating platforms for children to discuss their rights.
Last year (2013), 7000 children participated in Child Rights Clubs.
Child Rights Clubs in schools proved the following positive effects:
- Increased interaction between teachers and pupils
- Improved dialogue in schools
- Increased transparency and accountability in the school administration
- Increased accountability among teachers
- Improved discipline among pupils
- Improved school attendance
- Improved school performance
- Declining number of pregnancies among school girls
Raising Awareness - Child Marriage, Disabilities, FGM, Domestic Violence, Life on the Street...
More than 12,500 community members received educational services from our team in 2013. Topics included child rights, child marriage, children living with disabilities, drug awareness, female genital mutilation, domestic violence, life of children living on streets, and social services.
Shalom promoted educational services to the community through open market campaigns, street parades, open dramas, Shalom Children Cultural Dance distribution fliers, community and local government meetings, and radio shows broadcast on local stations.
Shalom Centre’s weekly half-hour radio show on Sunrise Radio Station reached 200,000 listeners.
Shalom Children's Rescue Centre
In some cases, at-risk children, such as street children, abandoned children, children running away from forced marriage, and children of torture or other child-abuse-related situations, are rescued and brought to Shalom Rescue Shelter, located 20km west of Arusha City.
The shelter is a transition centre where a child can be placed for days, weeks, or months, but not for more than 12 months before family reintegration takes place. The rescue shelter provides them with education, recreation, and health care.
At the rescue shelter, rehabilitated children are sent to neighborhood public schools, where they are placed in classes according to their age and level of understanding. The shelter also offers accommodation, behavior rehabilitation, counseling, and psychosocial support. Shalom staff expose children to hygiene training, environmental cleanliness, and life skills, including gardening, chicken farming, bead work, and arts and crafts.
The Shalom Rescue Shelter succeeded in providing a remarkable number of transition services in 2013:
- 1095 meals served at the rescue centre
- 67 children accommodated at the centre
- 67 provided with hygiene and health care
- 58 provided with education, school contributions, uniforms, and other scholastic materials
- 47 provided individual counseling
- 10 received rehabilitation services
Our outreach team concentrates on visiting high-poverty areas (slums), open markets, city markets, and bus stands, to meet children living in streets, hawking in markets, selling plastic bags, and collecting metal scraps.
The team also frequents the areas where new migrants’ children and families are likely to be when they arrive in the city.
Outreach activities result in trust-building, psychosocial support, counseling, medical checks, home visits and reintegration where necessary, and referrals to safer services.
Community outreach work supports vulnerable children and disadvantaged families in the community, as efforts to help children get off the streets or to prevent them from ending up on the streets. Our outreach team works with local families and their children by teaching them parenting skills, entrepreneurship, problem identification, and practical solutions for building more independent and safer futures.
Here are some of the accomplishments realized by our outreach team in 2013:
- 1000 fliers and pamphlets distributed
- 130 children and youth referred to education, foster care, and vocational training programs
- 63 street children reached
- 119 families reached
- 28 children reintegrated
- 139 children provided individual counseling
Many street children become separated from their families due to poverty, death of parents due to HIV/AIDS, and a street-working lifestyle. Separation also results from fear of going home without money, violence and abuse in the family, and other poverty-related issues.
Family reintegration is the primary goal of Shalom Centre. Shalom works to ensure that every child we meet, whenever possible, remains with or is reintegrated back into their immediate family, extended family, or a even a suitable family in the neighborhood.
Shalom staff members work closely with each child and his or her family, thoroughly assessing the child’s family situation, building trust, and helping identify the causes of separation to help the family find a solution.
When reintegrating a child, Shalom reunites the child with their family in the presence of village leaders, school teachers, and social welfare or community development officers.
We regularly follow up with each reintegrated child by phone and visit at a minimum of once a month. Upon successful reintegration, the follow-up visits are reduced and the reintegrated child is linked with any organizations or institutes working with children in the area for further follow-up.
Over the past year, Shalom has successfully reintegrated 25 boys and 3 girls.
Weekly Gatherings and Support
Shalom supports 225 children in Ngaramtoni (northwest side of Arusha City) with scholastic materials such as school uniforms, sweaters, school bags, exercise books, pens, and shoes.
All children supported by Shalom Centre in Ngaramtoni attend weekly gatherings. Children who come to these gatherings have experienced vulnerable conditions such as poverty, lack of education, or orphanhood.
In these Saturday gatherings, Shalom staff provide children with opportunities to gain information on a wide range of topics, such as HIV/AIDS, drug abuse, hygiene, child rights, child protection, environmental cleanliness, and personal safety. Children are also provided with literacy guidance classes on counting, reading, and writing.
Building confidence, life skills, children baraza, recreation, and health care are also made priorities for the children in Ngaramtoni. Before departing for home, the centre provides the children with fresh milk and snacks to improve their health.
The year 2013 saw 47 successful Saturday gatherings conducted in Ngaramtoni.
Empowerment through Education
Education opens doors to increased opportunities, as well as providing the confidence to face future challenges. Without an adequate education, children from poor families will continue in the cycle of poverty.
Many of these children have dropped out of school or have poor attendance rates due to family dysfunction, abuse, or social and economical problems. Shalom Centre provides school-related costs, school uniforms, scholastic materials, and related educational costs for the children who are most in need.
Shalom increased school enrollment, attendance, and access to basic education, while improving academic performance, by supporting over 300at-risk children:
- 23 enrolled and supported in nursery classes
- 221 supported in primary education
- 19 children living with disabilities supported in inclusion education
- 27 supported in secondary education
- 56 supported in vocational training
Sports for Health and Trust-building
Sports and games help to develop healthy minds and bodies. We use sports and games for trust-building, and through sports, we reach street children as a first step to getting involved in our other services.
Organised team sports activities are also a way of building a sense of belonging. We hold our sports activities on a bi-weekly basis.
Vocational Training for Girls and At-risk Youth
Vocational training provides students with marketable skills and assists graduates in finding safe and secure job opportunities.
Shalom supports girls and older at-risk youth with up to one year of vocational training courses that will enable them to secure employment and support themselves and their families.
The girls are enrolled in a vocational training centre accredited by the Tanzania Government and registered by VETA. Through career counseling with Shalom staff, girls select courses of their choice. In the curriculum of both theory and practice, girls learn a variety of skills such as cookery, sewing, hotel management, housekeeping, beauty and salon, secretarial readiness, early childhood education, and community development.
In addition to their training, the girls meet at the Shalom Centre on Saturdays for psychosocial support, entrepreneurship training, reproductive health education, HIV/AIDS prevention, parenting, exposure visits, and life skills sessions.
Shalom assisted in providing vocational training for the following numbers of youth this past year, as well as seeing a number of new graduates secure safe employment:
- 20 studied hotel management
- 4 studied cookery
- 11 studied hair dressing and beauty salon
- 3 studied early childhood education
- 6 studied sewing
- 1 studied secretarial course
- 1 studied community development
- 1 re-enrolled in secondary school
- 2 employed as teachers
- 3 employed as hoteliers
- 6 employed in hair dressing salons
- 2 running restaurants
- 2 have sewing marts
Sustainability and Income-generation
To ensure the resources to continue our programs well into the future, we also manage income-generating activities, such as the farm project.
The farm project supports the emergency shelter for street children, removing our dependency on external funding to meet running costs while also providing training in farming techniques to vulnerable youths and community members.
The farm, which is run by an experienced farm manager, includes an irrigation unit growing vegetables such as maize, beans, and lablab; a poultry unit accommodating up to 6,000 chicks/chickens; and a livestock unit rearing sheep, goats, and pigs.
The project generates income through the sale of crops, eggs, chickens, sheep, goat milk, and piglets and pigs, supplying supermarkets, hotels, private companies, local markets, and individuals. We expect a profit of £5000 to be raised through the farm project.
Collaboration - Locally and Nationally
We continue to work by raising awareness and providing training to a wide range of audiences, including building up community networks starting from ten cell, hamlet, and village/street level.
We are partnering with other organisations both locally and nationally, such as the Tanzania Children Agenda Forum and the local stakeholders forum in Ngaramtoni, founded by Shalom Centre.
Helping families to build safe, stable environments and providing specialized support for children and youth suffering from the trauma of abuse and other vulnerabilities, our child protection activities produced these results this year:
- 3 girls rescued from child marriage and returned to education
- 6 children rescued from exploitative child labour and torture
- 3 cases of child rape addressed
- 24 girls engaged in commercial sex rescued and economically supported
- 63 street children counseled for psychosocial support
- 3 families given emergency support
- 58 children provided with safe temporary shelter at Shalom Rescue Centre
- 2 girls provided with legal services
- 19 children rescued from street hawking and enrolled in school.
Since it was established seven years ago, the Shalom Centre is taking off now more than ever before.
Shalom Centre has touched hundreds of lives, reaching more children, more youths, more girls at risk of sexual abuse, more schools through Child Rights Clubs, more community members through child rights and protection awareness, and more stakeholders through collaboration, forums, and networking.
When I look back at the reports of numbers of children and youth served, my satisfaction comes from seeing happy children and successful youth leading meaningful lives. I am so proud that we have continued to grow and help more children, youth, poor families, and communities than ever before.
From sex trade to top student
But what I remember is the girl who dropped out of school and spent a year in the sex trade, who is now completing her secondary education as the best girl in the class of 150 students.
Drugs to teaching
I remember a drug-addicted and commercial-sex-engaged teenage girl who now has a steady job as a teacher in a nursery school, after completing Early Childhood education training supported by Shalom Centre.
Rescued from child marriage
I remember two 12-year-old Masai girls forced to marry men over 50 years old, who were rescued by Shalom Centre and are now back to succeeding in school.
Reunited with family, after child labour and torture
And I remember a young girl who was employed as a house girl, being tortured daily by her employer without any pay for about a year, with her body full of marks due to whippings and stick-beatings, who managed to run away. She had spent several nights in the bush before being rescued by the Shalom Centre, and she is now reunited with her family.
Communities taking action
I am glad to see communities setting child protection action plans and taking action, leading to reduced cases of child rights violations.
I would like to thank the Shalom board members, management team, staff, and volunteers who work so hard every day to make things happen and make changes realized. Their commitment and compassion is what makes Shalom Centre fulfill its mission by touching many lives of children and youth. Although I know the next year won’t be without its challenges, I look forward to the adventure, knowing that I am surrounded by an amazing team.
I would also like to thank our supporters, who very generously support the work and activities of Shalom Centre. Without your help, it would have been impossible to achieve all that we have. The year 2013 was a busy year at Shalom Centre, but 2014 will be even busier as we continue to establish programmes, expand services, and increase innovations.
Again, I thank everyone who made the last year such a tremendous success and helped to change the lives of children in Tanzania.