Getting Children off the Streets in Kenya: The Zawadi Rescue Center 

In late September 2023, we rescued 34 children living on the streets in Kenya.  This is the story of how it happened.

Across the globe, 16.6 million children have lost one or both parents to HIV; 90% of these orphans are in sub-Saharan Africa[1]. In Kenya, the public social welfare system struggles to manage all of these children. The kids simply have nowhere to turn. It is estimated that 250,000 children are now living on the streets in Kenya[2].

Sitting in the northeastern shadow of Mount Kenya is the city of Maua. This little city was home to over 50 boys living on the streets. They were so young – twelve, thirteen, fourteen; the youngest was only ten years old. For about 10% of the cost of feeding themselves, they could instead buy a very toxic form of glue. Sniffing the glue gets them high and suppresses their appetite. The boys walk around in a daze all day, temporarily lose their fine motor skills, and are vulnerable to long-term brain damage. 

Our team of Volunteer Field Coordinators in Kenya, Lindsey Arillaga and Collin Milone, partnered with a local Kenyan Community Developer named Geoffery Mosetti to address the situation. Together, they conducted outreach to the boys living on the street over the course of three weeks. They started by rejecting the boys’ requests for money and instead, bought them some chai and chapati. The next day, the number of children doubled. A few weeks later they were buying lunch for over 50 boys. Throughout the process, our team on the ground was listening to what the boys had to say, building rapport, and establishing trust.

In the meantime, they were working with a local priest to secure a boarding facility for the boys. By the end of September, the team had what they needed; an eight-room building in the countryside of central Kenya donated by the priest, and enough startup capital from Luena to change the kids’ lives. They called it “The Zawadi Rescue Center”. Zawadi means gift in Swahili. Over the course of four days, the team rented a car and rescued 23 boys and one girl from the streets. A week later, ten more boys were rescued from a neighboring city.

The boys are in the process of detoxing from the glue. They are now receiving three hearty meals per day, parental guidance from our House Dad, and brotherly love from our House Brother who went through a similar program himself. Soon, they will be ready to re-enter school. The one girl, Brillian, had appeared as a boy on the streets because it is dangerous to be a young girl living on the streets. When she was last in school, her grades classified her as “bright and needy” within the Kenyan education system. Our team secured Brillian a slot in one of the top boarding schools in central Kenya. Now, she has a chance to shine. 

The Zawadi Rescue Center is changing lives. We are going to continue to stand by them as they guide these boys through their transformation. If you would like to volunteer or support the boys, please consider donating today.