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: firstname.lastname@example.org – 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:
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!
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.
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