Children in impoverished communities are often at risk of being exploited, abused or trafficked. Many spend their days in the hot sun approaching total strangers for money or food. Some dig through trash cans collecting recyclables. Police harass them and often deport them or lock them up in order to “clean up” the streets for the day. For many, school is not an option because of the income their work contributes to the family.
Our Community Engagement Team walks the streets each week, looking for kids who are out begging. We’ve seen kids register into school and later drop out due to family pressures. We’ve seen them get thrown in jail after having gotten in with the wrong crowd. We’ve seen them smile despite heartbreaking stories of neglect and abuse.
Their struggle has inspired us to advocate for them in every way we can.
Our strategy is simple: Meet the kids where they are. While brick-and-mortar drop-in locations may offer stability, they are not always welcomed by established communities. What we offer instead is a mobile drop-in program. We feed kids a good meal, then teach them a skill, a game, or a few English words. Most importantly, we look for ways to connect with them and to strengthen our mentoring relationship. Eventually, conversation leads to family visits and we gain the trust of the community, one family at a time. Then when crisis occurs, they know where to turn.