Feeding Street Kids

The streets of Juba are full of children who struggle to survive without anyone to take care of them. A few faith-based organisations chose to give these street kids a day out of the ordinary.

Text & Photos: Thorkild Jørgensen.

Feeding Street Kids

It is as if the hundreds (or maybe the thousands) of street children of Juba have lost the interest of the outside world. Studies on these children are at least three or four years old, and none of them gives an estimated number of children who live on the streets of Juba.

It isn’t even easy to get organisations inside South Sudan to help the street kids of Juba– everyone has their one agenda and it is difficult to find funds to deviate from anyorganisation’s purpose for being in the country.

Reaching out to the vulnerable

Moses Telar, the director of the Bureau of Religious Affairs, got the idea that faith-based organisations in South Sudan should support a 3-day Christmas event of “preaching the Word of God and eating food with vulnerable children”. Although MAF and a few other organisations (SIL, Across, World Relief, Windle Trust and Far Reaching Ministries) came on board not enough money was raised to make it happen. The event was cut to a one day event and postponed until 8 March. Things still didn’t work out and some lost interest in the whole idea.

MAF and SIL decided to make a last effort and they aimed for Friday the 20th of April. MAF’sLogistics Officer Matthew Mundipale used his talents of logistics to find cooks, nurses, food, a tent, chairs, a sound system and a bus. Bishop Martin Mogga from Episcopal Church of South Sudan engaged social workers to find street boys and tell them that a picnic was going to be arranged for them.

On of the street kids about to start his meal

Creating awareness

On the morning of the event, when Matthew was driving all over Juba to pick up people and items, he stopped at an area called Green Rokon where a large group of street boys were waiting for a bus to pick them up. While the boys eagerly posed in front of the camera social worker Susan Paulino waved me over to a paralyzed boy who was sitting with his back against a shipping container. “Take a picture of him,” she said, which didn’t prove to beeasily done, because all of the other boys immediately fought to be in the picture as well.

Susan explained that the boy had asked her to bring the Kawaja (the white person) who was taking pictures, because if a Kawaja would take his picture, then maybe the world would become aware of the street kids of Juba and their hopeless situation.

Wounded and playful

Around 140 Boys from four areas of Juba were brought to the compound of the Bureau of Religious Affairs where a large tent had been set up in the morning. While some women were cooking food two nurses from the military hospital treated the wounds of more than 50 boys. Hydrogen peroxide disinfected the nasty and fly-ridden wounds with an impressive froth before they were wiped clean and dressed. Although this obviously was very painful only a few boys winced while they and their friends watched the procedure with interest. One younger boy with shins full of cuts and bruises hung around the nurses for a long time while he was plucking up the courage to have his wounds treated.

All around the grounds boys were playing, dancing and showing off. One young boy with one leg and a crutch wanted his picture taken and I asked him what had happened to hisleg. “Cobra,” he replied.

Speeches

The boys took a seat under the tent and Richard Malik from SIL welcomed everybody and opened with a prayer. Young students from Maridi’s Youth Christian Association (MYCA)sang songs of worship followed by speeches by Bishop Martin Mogga, Moses Telar, Hon. Rose Liso – the minister of Gender Child and Social Welfare – and even yours truly said a few words on behalf of the faith-based organisations involved in the event.

Half of the kids fell asleep during the speeches – they probably don’t sleep well in thestreets, and they are hungry – but when some of their own gang leaders were asked to talk to the assembly about their view on life they all cheered and clapped.

Bless the food

Food was then laid out on plates and everyone was asked to join in prayer as the bishop blessed the food. Many of these young boys bowed their heads reverently and folded their hands. Somebody had been teaching these lowliest of people about God!

Every boy got himself a plate of beans, ugali, potatoes, mandasi and a little meat. Some of the older boys sat quietly for a moment facing towards each other and prayed once again for the food to be blessed. Eating with their hands the kids dug in and savoured every mouthful of food with delight. Some were lucky enough to get second helpings.

Going “home”

Suddenly all of the boys ran out through the gate, crossed the street and lept on to the bus that had come to bring the boys back to the areas where they came from. Soon the boys were packed like sardines inside the bus, waving out the windows while they drove off to a life that nobody would envy.

Going “home”

 

About the street kids of Juba:
In 2010 it was estimated that 1,200 kids were living on the streets of Juba. There is no reason to believe that the number has dropped. According to Oxfam IBIS “most of theparents of street children lack employment because they are demobilised soldiers not yet
integrated into the society. The children who live in the city centre, around Juba’s mainmarkets and trading areas, are perceived by the public as outcasts and often treated in a hostile manner. Especially if they spend the night outdoors they are continually harassed by the local police and often imprisoned. The majority of street living children do not have permanent sleeping places during night time. They keep moving from one place to another, in search of a safe corner where the possibility of being raped, robbed or harassed is minimized. This is especially a priority for the girls who are in danger of becoming victims ofsexual violence first and of sexual exploitation later.”
A study in 2015 targeted 120 children within the age of 6-17 years of age in the five majormarkets in Juba city. According to the study “the majority of the street children are malewithin the age of 10-14 years and originally from urban areas. They survive by engaging in works such as selling wares, shoe shining, collecting rubbish, collecting empty bottles for re- use by local beverage makers, washing cars, and others beg or steal. They face a lot of problems such as drop out from school, drugs abuse, and feeding themselves with leftovers. They experience inhuman treatment such as torture, rape and arrest by police.”