Today is the first ever International Day for Street Children and LAFF is joining the Consortium for Street Children in celebrating the day to give a voice to the millions of children worldwide who are invisible, ignored and do not have a voice. This is an exciting year for this important cause as, additionally, last month the UN Human Rights Council met with other key players to discuss the rights of street children globally and how to tackle this burning issue. Rights for children in general are highlighted in the human rights agenda, but street children are swept under the carpet – an issue that no government seems to want to own up to, or deal with.
Having the day being celebrated internationally brought me to think about why this is the issue that I have chosen to work on and why LAFF has chosen to focus on this issue in their work.
I am a bit of an idealist and, for me, it simply is not fair that the world is not a more equal place – how can there be such riches and such poverty and, more importantly, how can 10% of the world’s population own 85% of the world’s riches, and how can 50% of the world’s population only have access to 1%?! For me this is absurd. Poverty is a huge contributing factor to the issue of street children – parents can’t afford to feed their children or send them to school; children run away to give their brothers and sisters a better chance in life; children are the main breadwinners in their families who can’t afford not to make them work; children are abused at home as parents turn to alcohol to dull their disappointment in life… These are just some of the causes that lead to children living and working on the streets. I worked for a year as a volunteer with a police-run centre for niños trabajadores de la calle (child street workers) and during that time I could see these issues very clearly – this is what spurred me on to want to try and make a difference for these children who have to become adults all too soon and why I am so proud to work for Latin American Foundation for the Future (LAFF) – a charity that holds the same values as me.Why LAFF? LAFF was set up by Sarah Oakes, who I met while volunteering in Peru six years ago. She worked on community development projects and also felt this sense of injustice so decided to do something about it. When she returned to the UK she set up LAFF to tackle needs expressed through talking to many children and children’s homes. As a small charity, LAFF can’t do everything so decided to focus on two key areas:
- Helping children’s homes to become self-sustaining through generating income, lowering costs and capacity building, so as not to need to depend on external support which can be fickle and unreliable
- To help provide vocational support for children in care to enable them to access dignified employment once they leave the homes, trying to break the stigma associated with former street children In 2006 UNICEF published a report on ‘The State of the World’s Children’ which stated that there were over 100 million street children worldwide – 40% of those children live in Latin America which is a significant proportion of the world’s street children. The International Day for Street Children provides an exciting opportunity for LAFF to promote our work as for the last two months we have been working on Schools Resources in order to try and get this issue into the classroom in a fun and inspiring way for children in the UK – if you are a teacher and would be interested in using this material to raise awareness about this important cause please get in touch by emailing LAFF! Equally, although this year International Day for Street Children falls in the Easter holidays, why not hold a day to celebrate once schools starts again so as not to forget the plight of such children? LAFF hopes to celebrate the day more prominently next year when we are more established, but in the meantime, in order to celebrate the day here in Peru I’m off to visit a couple of potential partner projects in Peru’s second biggest city, Arequipa. Find out more by reading informative articles from The Daily Telegraph and The Guardian.