Last Updated: Friday, 27 May 2016, 08:49 GMT

Kenya: Off the streets and into school

Publisher Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN)
Publication Date 24 February 2009
Cite as Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN), Kenya: Off the streets and into school, 24 February 2009, available at: [accessed 28 May 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

MOLO, 24 February 2009 (IRIN) - When Sonia Donnan, originally from Jamaica, accompanied her husband to work in Kenya in 2003, she never imagined she would end up looking after street-children in Molo town, Rift Valley Province.

"A short while into my stay in Molo, I realised there were children living by themselves in parts of the town, with some looking after other children," Donnan said. "I thought of establishing a day-care centre at the local church to help [them]."

Funded by family, friends and well-wishers, she and her husband, Chris Donnan, teamed up with Molo Happy Church to set up a day-care centre for the children.

The Molo Street Children Project began with a small house near the church. By 2004, 10 children were attending school and one a training centre.

Election fallout

In early 2008, Donnan was forced to close the facility as post-election violence swept across the province.

"We kept track of the children; three were boys whose father was an alcoholic and we tried to urge them to stay at home but they went without food for days," she said.

"At one time, following a heavy downpour, the boys spent three nights on their feet as their home was flooded and their father just slept in the water; I began looking into ways of helping these children despite the tension that still prevailed in the area."

Around April 2008, as things calmed down across the province and government and aid agencies sought to resettle hundreds of thousands of displaced, Donnan started looking for a more permanent home for the children.

The project acquired 1.05ha on the outskirts of Molo and rehabilitated a building on the site. It now caters for about 90 children, most of whom have been placed in nearby schools.

"Not all the children we deal with are without homes," Richard Njoroge, a social worker on the project, said. "Due to ethnic violence experienced in 1992, 1997, 2002 and again in 2007 [election years], a lot of parents have found it convenient to rent houses for their children in Molo town where they feel it is safer. We try to draw such children into our centre so they can spend their days here instead of on the streets."

Building families

Besides efforts to rehabilitate street-children, the centre also provides lunch to those living on their own and was involved in re-uniting children who lost contact with their parents during the post-election violence.

"We believe a child is best kept in a home set-up; we try to put those with nowhere to go or with parents who are [incapacitated] with other relatives so they only have to come to the centre during the day," Njoroge said.

According to Abdi Sheikh Yusuf, the Rift Valley provincial children's officer, up to 700 unaccompanied minors were registered after the post-election violence - 500 from Molo area.

"Because of Molo's history of high volatility, parents put their children in rented premises during times of tension but later reclaim them when things calm down; currently there are up to 200 such children in Molo," he said.

"Our aim is to give an education to each child in a bid to get them out of the cycle of poverty," Donnan said. "The little we are doing will go a long way in reducing the number of children on our streets."


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