NAIROBI, Kenya, May 5 – According to the United Nations (UN), youth are defined as those between the ages of 15 and 24 making up 18 percent of the world’s total population; 87 percent of which live in third world countries.
On August 12 last year, the UN launched the International Year of Youth, under the slogan Our Year-Our Voice. The project that culminates on August 12 this year is encouraging youth to foster progress in their communities to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015.
Erick Omondi is one such young man, who has taken the initiative to make a difference in his community here in Nairobi.
At first glance Erick appears to be your average guy, donning a simple polo shirt and pair of jeans. However, he doesn’t have such an average story.
In fact, life for 20-year-old Erick has been a tumultuous roller coaster since he was a boy, yet he recounts his difficult life, as a street boy, with such ease.
Hard knock life
“I grew up in Kibera; it’s one of the worst places to grow up. It was March of 1999 when my father passed away of AIDS. My mother wanted to poison all twelve of us because she could no longer provide for us after my father passed away,” said Erick.
Unable to take the pressures of home, Erick ran away and took refuge in the streets.
“In 2000, I became a street boy; when I was in class one that was the end of my education. I was living in the streets without shelter and assurance of having food every day. Nobody cared about me; whether I lived or not, but for me living in the street was the only way to survive,” recounts Erick.
Erick’s story is much too familiar to hundreds of thousands of street kids in Kenya.
According to an IRIN report (Youth in Crisis) in 2007, there were between 250,000 and 300,000 children living and working on the streets across Kenya, with more than 60,000 of them in Nairobi.
Erick had to find a way to survive on the streets, and took on several odd jobs.
“I used to polish shoes, wash windscreens, carry luggage, clean business premises and vehicles, pick pockets or beg. Food was not that much of a problem because in the Nairobi streets everywhere there was a big dustbin and that was my place to get food.”
“I took drugs that were my daily fuel to drive my life. I got caught up in the wrong crowd, but street children really show love to each other. We had different backgrounds, but we came together as a family,” said Erick.
His life took a turn for the better when he heard about Maximum Miracle Children’s Home from a friend.
Maximum Miracle Children’s Home has been helping orphans and at-risk youth, for over a decade providing them with food, clothing and shelter, self help initiatives, school fee sponsorship and counseling.
“In 2002, I went to rehab for five years. The rehab center allowed me to go back to school. Bishop Pius Muiru ran the rehab. He rook care of us,” said Erick. “That’s where I got the vision of helping other families and kids from being where I was.”
Making a difference
In 2007, along with a few former parking kids, Erick started a youth group called Generation Guiders.
The non-profit youth group has three programmes; Rehab, Educational and Hope for Life, reaching kids in Kibera, Mathare and Githurai.
“The rehab programme is to help fight drug use and abuse. We used these drugs, so we decided to talk to the youth about it. We teach them to be self-reliant through workshop training and school clubs. So far we have helped about 30 kids,” said Erick.
Through its educational programme, Generation Guiders has helped 50 children continue with their education.
Iddah Awino, who is in Form One in Mwangaza Secondary School in Machakos, is a beneficiary of the Generation Guiders’ educational programme.
“I was looking for sponsorship after finishing class eight. I got 319 marks on my exams, but could not afford school fees. I was happy when they [Generation Guiders] helped me, because my brother did not have the money. He provides for everything,” she said.
Hope for Life is Generation Guiders’ newest initiative that was started this year. It provides disadvantaged families with food, clothes and rent. The programme currently supports 12 families in Kibera and Mathare.
“We are on track to meet the goal of halving the proportion of hungry people in Kenya by 2030. Whether it’s through emergency operations or relief or development projects Generation Guiders’ focus is on making sure food reaches hungry people,” said Erick.
Today, Erick resides in Kibera and continues to help his fellow street kids. Armed with a diploma in web design from Nairobits Digital Design School, he is hopeful of the future.
“My wish is to do my best and support poor families and children in Eastern Africa. The experience of seeing children, who once had no hope, no love and no support, makes me want to be a hope to them. I am a little pencil in the hand of a writing God who is sending a love letter to the orphan children in Africa.”
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