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.
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 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.
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.
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.