Family structures are changing nature and becoming increasingly diverse due to the increasing socio-economic and demographic developments. This is why ChildHope actively supports the United Nations' initiative to underline the crucial importance of "Social Integration and Intergenerational Solidarity" as 2013's theme for the International Day of Families. It aims to raise awareness in order "to bring all social groups, particularly vulnerable groups, into every structure of societies so that they can participate in the decision-making process and improve their access to opportunities."
ChildHope recognises the importance of this approach. Working with our local partner Street Child of Sierra Leone (SCoSL), we have adopted a wider approach to bring positive and sustainable change to families and wider communities in order to benefit children working on the streets.
On 15th May 2013, ChildHope celebrates the International Day of Families(1). For ChildHope, the theme this year highlights the need to work with families in order to ensure the safety and wellbeing of children who are working on the streets.
In Sierra Leone, 77% of the population live on less than £1 per day (UNDP 2011) and children are driven to the streets in search of work to support themselves and their families. These resourceful children, including girl-mothers, work to ensure their survival through street vending, fetching and carrying but in doing so are exposed to abuse and sexual exploitation.
Since 2004, ChildHope with its partner Street Child of Sierra Leone (SCoSL) has identified 49,698 children living and working in the streets, reconnecting them with their families and supporting them back to school.
Street Child of Sierra Leone listens to the children to find out why they are on the streets and then provides counselling and support for the reintegration of the child with a safe and caring member of their extended family. Poverty drove Gabriel and his 2 brothers to collect and sell firewood to help the family live and survive. However, this meant that they were unable to attend school. ScoSL provided an initial grant of the equivalent of £100 to support Gabriel's Mum, Zaria, to build her own business and secure a livelihood. Zaria used the money to start a small grocery store.
The family are now earning an average of £280 per month. The three boys are back in school and all have progressed to the next academic level. The boys still help their mother by farming a small plot of land that provides the goods for the store but they only do so when they are not in school.
Despite the challenges faced, extended families play an important role in holding societies together. Their role is essential for the better integration and participation of communities to achieve an active role in determining their own future. Stories like Gabriel's in Sierra Leone demonstrate there is a possibility to address these issues and overcome poverty by building intergenerational solidarity.
You can help ChildHope continue changing and improving the lives of children and their families, not only in Sierra Leone but in many other countries. Your support is vital to bring about a greater impact on societies - getting children back in to education, off the streets and offering them a brighter future.
1 - The International Day of Families is observed on the 15th of May every year. The Day was proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in 1993 and reflects the importance the international community attaches to families.