Thursday, March 25, 2010

Street Kids

Nanyuki is like any fairly large city in that it has a population of street people. The difference between the street people of Nanyuki and most American cities is that in Nanyuki most of the street people are kids. There are 48 documented street kids in Nanyuki. Most of them are not homeless in the strictest sense of the word because they have a structure which they call home. If this structure were in the United States however it would be condemned and or the person who lived in it would still be considered homeless.

The kids range in age from 5 to 25 and they are a constant fixture on the streets of Nanyuki. There job is essentially asking Wazungu (foreigners) for money. Since it only takes 20 shillings (30 cents) to by them a meal for the day most of them are easily fed and even end up with a little pocket change to bring home to their often destitute parents. Oftentimes after they are fed they go to a “movie theater” to watch a movie for 5 shillings the movie theaters are little rooms made out of sheet metal and cardboard that have a small TV in them. The best part is that they sometimes hire people to interpret the movie into Swahili while it is playing. I am told that they can also spend 20 shillings playing playstation but I have yet to see it. Sometimes however they are unlucky and end up with no food for the day. As the day goes on they get more desperate for food and therefore more persistent.

Many of the young street kids and almost all of those older than 16 are heavy drug abusers. The drug of choice is huffing glue or petroleum products. The glue is usually put in a small plastic bottle and hidden (sometimes not hidden) in their sleeves or pockets. The huffers are notorious for not being able to control themselves even if they arent high. I have seen kids who appeared to be five years old with glue bottles in their mouth. I was particularly disturbed by two sisters both younger than ten completely out of their mind on glue.

(Two street boys display their glue bottles. The boys told me they are nine years old and have been huffing glue since they were five)

These are desperate kids and if they can’t find glue sometimes they resort to defecating in a bottle and burying it until it ferments. They then retrieve it and inhale the resulting vapors. Like I said…they are desperate.

There is also a group of kids who are poor but they aren't permanent street kids. They are usually kicked out of school maybe twice a year because they don’t have a proper uniform. Usually their clothes become so faded that the school colors are unrecognizable, or their shoes cease to hold their feet in them. These kids usually appear on the street for a few weeks or a month at a time. Their parents work a little harder and save up for the article of clothing and the kids disappear from the street.

Most of the young kids want to go back to school. Many of them don’t do glue…yet. But they will. I am told by the old kids that it is too hard to ask people for money each day. It is embarrassing. It is easier to inhale the fumes and lose your consciousness, even if little by little it takes your humanity with it. I am worried about these young kids who are so sweet and innocent. Kids whose only crime is that their parents don’t have money and only role models are drugged up wild men who barely have brains left in their heads.

I need to do something about this.


  1. This is tragic, Mattie. I am so glad that you are over there helping some of the youth. Stay strong and open, as always. - Courtney