A friend of mine (different friend from the one in the prev blog, “Best Way to Eat Easter”) was one of the original youth who Tarime UMC worked with when they started their outreach for children and youth living on the streets (called Our Father’s House), in 2012. After a few months of getting to know him, the Church started to do family counseling so that he might return home, advised him to stop stealing phones and scrap metal, and tried to get him to return to school, even being ready to buy school uniforms. They made a little progress with him- he started living with his mother for short periods- but on the whole, he wasn’t interested. He kept stealing, and refused to return to school.
After a few years of this, the Our Father’s House staff saw that they were investing a lot of time in my friend, while ignoring other youth. Since he refused their help, they decided to focus on the other youth on the streets, who were headed down the same bleak path.
One day last November, five of the Our Father’s House youth started working with the brick business. On the next day though, only three of the five returned. I asked Mwita (Our Father’s House director at the time) what happened, and he told me that folks were telling them not to work there, because stealing scrap metal paid better. It turned out that one of the folks giving this advice was my friend.
We found two youth to take the place of those who had followed my friend’s advice, and they worked steadily until mid-March, when one of the youth, Marwa, injured his arm. Until Marwa healed, I wanted to give his spot to a young man who had asked earlier if he could join the project, but he was in jail. It was late, and to our surprise, my friend requested the spot. We gave him the job for one day, and told him we would find someone else tomorrow.
We were shocked when my friend worked harder than everyone else. Yusufu, the youth who had taken the role as supervisor, begged us to keep him on, at least until Marwa was healthy. We reluctantly agreed, and my friend kept up the same above-and-beyond performance (the title roughly means “He/she is working hard”).
We still intended to ask him to leave the project once Marwa’s arm healed. One day, though, we needed the youth to help stack up the bricks they had made. They were supposed to be doing this all along and had neglected it, so they had to do it without pay. By this time, Marwa had healed, but he refused to help, as did all of the other youth- except Josef Marwa, and my friend. My friend worked at his usual intense pace, surprising us all.
On May 11th, Mwita and I held a meeting with the youth. We discussed several different things, and one of them was whether to keep my friend on. We all agreed that he was working incredibly hard, and proving to us that he wanted a job, instead of continuing with his scrap metal theft. We all agreed to give him a spot.
I don’t want to give you the impression that this is the end of a beautiful story. We have seen some of these young folks on the streets change for a time, and then return to the life they left. We have a long way to go with my friend, but this is encouraging news for now.
Finally, if anyone wants to sponsor one of these young folks as we either reunite them with a family, or to help them get a job and learn work skills through the brick project, you can let me know. Sponsorship is $40/month, and we could certainly do more and better work if we had more sponsors.