PS: Can you have a post-script at the start of a missive? Technically no, of course not, but as I wrote this after my blog post I feel justified in calling it a PS! Hey it’s my blog, my rules!

I have avoided writing about Amani because of the challenge that I am now a part of, and its enormity has overwhelmed me. Also, I know I have a tendency to get carried away and jump on that soapbox really quickly. I have tried here to condense what I perceive Amani to represent, based on my experience over the last three weeks.

I would really appreciate some feedback on this post and what you want to hear about as days go by. If you have never commented on a post before please do this time, it will help me deliver the information you want to receive. if I am on that soapbox, tell me!¬

If you are not comfortable with the public comments forum please e-mail me: gillsains@yahoo.co.uk – this is your blog too.

 Amani Centre for Street Children

Although the address published as Children’s Home this is not true to the reality of what Amani is and does. I find myself consistently scribbling observations in my notebook that talk of the Amani system or process. After three weeks in Tanzania and a pretty intensive orientation period I have a  clear picture of what I perceive Amani to be about and Children’s Home does not come close to covering it.

Rescuing Children. Restoring Hope. Transforming Lives

These are the words above the main doors into Amani and as Meindert Schaap, the Director of the centre, observed to me, at first they seem to be just a string of big words or as I myself had thought, the workings of a good marketing manager. However as Meindeep went on to say and I have to agree, once he became truly involved and a part of the team he realises that hey, yes, this is exactly what happens at Amani. The Amani process that I referred to is epitome of those three statements:

Rescuing Children

It all starts on the streets. I have spent a day and night in Arusha with one of the social workers, witnessing first-hand the harsh reality of life on the streets for so many boys. Did you ever really notice the images at the top of this page? Take a minute please and really look… Glue, marijuana, beatings, sexual activity as currency, sleeping on the steps of the sports stadium with a discarded potato sack for a blanket. This is where most of the Amani kids come from.

The image above shows Social Worker, Ally, taking time to play games, provide lunch and build trust with a group of boys living on the streets in Moshi. This is the first step in Amani’s work and through compassion and genuine care, they are meeting more and more children to rescue from the streets!

 

Restoring Hope

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Once at Amani the process of caring, nurturing, educating and reunifying with families starts. From day one the focus is on reunification if possible, the kids are counselled as to their backgrounds and circumstances, level of education (if any) and their individual stories and dreams. There is a place educationally for all at Amani, special needs, those with no reading or writing skills and those with some prior education. The Amani nurse evaluates their health issues and the Amani cooks set about restoring their stunted growth to a healthier point via three nutritious meals a day. Within Amani the new children quickly see and experience the example of the successes of their peers thus allowing them to open the window of hope in their hearts, hope for a better future.

s image shows a boy who came back to Amani with us from Arusha, Isaw him as a slight ten or eleven year old and was shocked to discover he is fourteen. Street life and little or no food takes it toll on developing bodies.

Transforming Lives

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The ex-street boy – Amani second year university student. The ex-street boy now living at home with his brother and surviving on the proceeds of sale of his art and crafts. Skills learnt at vocational college sponsored by Amani, and with plans to open a shop to sell Amani produced crafts. The ex-street boy living in Moshi and working as a mechanic who will be getting married this year and starting his own family. The girl brought to Amani by the local police after she came to them the victim of sexual assault on the streets, now studying and living happily within the Amani community. The four-year old disabled child found tied to a pole in the streets, abandoned by no doubt desperate parents, who is now in his teens and living within a stable and loving environment with a special needs team evaluating and managing his disabilities.

This image is Graduation Day and these students are giving a speech of thanks to the Director and staff of Amani. These two lives are well on the road to being transformed.

Amani is a whole package, it does not believe in sticking plaster solutions. Amani gets to grips with the fundamental root causes of the kids being on the streets and tries as hard as is humanly possible to not just “kiss and make better” in the short-term but to go back to the source of the issue and influence, assist, support and where possible change attitudes and behaviour to the point where the child can return to that home environment safely.

It is not always possible. Life at Amani is by no means a fairy tale. There are disappointments, but from my brief but in-depth introduction to the team and the process it is my belief that Amani does not have a place for failure. It achieves this by never giving up. If a child comes to them and the current systems cannot provide that particular child with the framework to establish a better life for him or herself then the process that is Amani asks itself why? Then it sets about evolving and expanding to encompass the answers to that question.

EG: Current Youth Transition Project

Amani is raising funds to build a separate unit for the older children that cannot be reunified with families. They need to learn the skills of living alone and caring for themselves. The plot of land which is already purchased and awaiting planning permissions is a fifteen minute walk from Amani and will have four buildings, one central common area and three each with a capacity for eight youths.

EG: Hard core street boys in Arusha

There are kids who have been at Amani and jumped the wall several times and they simply cannot settle into the routine of Amani. These boys come to the drop-in centre at Arusha three days a week. Here they can wash their clothes, shower and use the toilet, they are given tea and bread and taught how to make beaded jewellery that they can sell or encouraged to paint and draw. Here they receive counselling on the effects of glue, personal hygiene and the dangers of HIV.

I asked the question as to whether these boys were not perhaps taking advantage of the drop-in centre’s facilities and Amani?

“Yeah, of course. But you know little by little, day by day they come to take what they want but every time, they leave with something we want to give. Gradually, slowly we can make progress.” The Social Worker answered with a smile as big and bright as her heart.

Rescuing Children. Restoring Hope. Transforming Lives

 

Lala Salama, sleep well in the comfort of your beds my friends. Xxxx

 

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14 thoughts on “Finally – Meet Amani

    1. Thanks for stopping by Paula,. As you say so much pain and yet these sames kids can bring so much to the counties future if we give them a chance. They already bring me so much joy. Happy weekend xxx

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  1. Thank you Gill, you have explained the ethos of Amani and how they achieve this extremely well. Would you be allowed to do a profile of one of the children who has been helped by Amani, from rescue to transition, or would this breach and privacy restrictions you have?
    I look forward to each and every one of your blog posts, please take care of yourself, your co-workers and the children, you are so blessed.

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    1. Hi Adele, great minds think alike! I have been scribbling stories of my experiences at Amani with a vague idea of a fundraiser collection of some sort and also wondered if this would be possible! I think there would be no issue with one of the mature ex students but I have to be careful with current kids re privacy etc. Will keep you posted.xxx

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  2. Lovely to hear about what Amani is trying to do and how you are hoping to help. I remember you saying that you were hoping to be able to help young girls that made me think that, helping these young boys turn into educated husbands of the future it will do much for their daughters. Good luck, think of you daily and hope you are safe. Love from Sheila & Mick Xx

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    1. Thanks to you both for your support and comments. good point re the husbands of the future. I was checking out the swahili word for kitchen today and found the one word jiko means oven, stove, kitchen. much to my amusement the dictionary then pointed out that pato jiko means to find a wife! Clearly a way to go for women’s lib here! Love to you both xxx

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  3. That’s a really thought provoking post. Thank you! And you ask for our thoughts and comments. Firstly, I have seen some of this first hand in Nepal and I confess that I hand’t thought about the situation in depth as this post encourages me to do. I’m not sure what background I imagined these children have but I suspected one of neglect or abuse. Secondly, this prompts me to question how the children end up on the street in the first place? This is fuelled by the mention in your post of the attempts to reunite the children with their families. How successful is this? Do the families want to be reunited? I can imagine it’s a hard battle with some children who resist the institutionalisation but it’s so heart warming to hear of the success stories. Looking forward to hearing more… Namaste!

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    1. Thanks so much for your comments. The Director here spent 11 years working with street kids in India before taking this post in 2011. I looked at volunteer placements in India and was so shocked and moved by some of the stories I fled to more a more “comfortable” environment. So I take my hat off to you for your time in Nepal. I am glad I got you thinking. Your follow up questions are important and will form future posts for sure. There is an Amani drop-in centre in Arusha where the hard core older street kids who cannot or will not adapt to the Amani process can go. Here they can wash and clean themselves and their clothes, receive counselling and guidance and learn a skill that can be traded on the streets EG: making jewellery, art etc. More on this soon… with love and hope gill xxx

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  4. Somewhat of a tear-jerker for me… You seem to have an attitude of acceptance and gentleness, coupled with a belief that every small step these children are able to take, that it all makes a difference. I like that it’s not a kiss and make better story, and that children with additional needs are equally cared for, and that their potential is supported too.

    Like the above comment from Feeling Sounds, I too wonder if the children want to be reunited with their families, and how successful it is?

    Thanks for sharing. 🙂

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    1. Thank you for stopping by Susan and for taking the trouble to comment. As per my reply above to feeling sounds some of the answers will follow in posts for sure! I want to create a balance within the posts between the harsh reality of the background issues that are sending kids to the streets and the positivity that I witness every day at the centre. I hope that I can achieve this but as I said if I get on the soapbox too much just send me a virtual slap!!! I will have one rule throughout though – no negative images. The leader banner is the only exception. Modern life has desensitised us to images through video, CD’s, games, the news, save the children ads ….that’s why I asked my readers to stop and really look at the leader banner this time. Hope to see you here again. Heartfelt thanks xxx

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  5. Great post Gill, it’s nice to read about what Amani does more in depth. Would be very interested to hear about your day and night in Arusha, I’m sure it was quite an experience!

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    1. Cheers Lindsay, the trip was tough but in a good way, such an eye opener. have had difficulties putting it into words. My phone doesn,t seem to work from home but will definitely be in touch! Gill xxx

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  6. I salute you Gill for volunteering for such a great cause and not only helping those poor children but also sharing with us what actually does go on out there. so often we sit complacently at home not sparing a thought for others less fortunate. I know from homeless animals how they blossom from just a little care and I am sure the same can be said for these kids who up until they came to Amani had no kindness, no warm embrace and no safe house. Keep up the good work and keep keeping us informed of it! xx

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    1. Welcome to my journey Sally and thanks for stopping by and commenting. You are right, just a little care and love goes a long way with the vulnerable, be they animals, kids or adults.

      I hope you enjoy the blog and please comment anytime it is great to read other peoples views and experiences.

      Be happy and healthy.

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