About the project:
In 2015, ChildHope received a major new grant from Comic Relief for a new project with SCoSL, working with children, young people and their families living and working on rubbish dumps in Freetown. The project enables the children to leave this hazardous work and enrol in school or vocational training. Support is given to parents and caregivers to improve their incomes and reduce reliance on their children earning money to support the family, enabling children to safely return home while continuing their education. Relationships are built with schools so that they are more supportive of the children they are enrolling, creating a welcoming and nurturing environment and reducing negative perceptions. Communities are supported to better understand issues around child abuse and safeguarding, so that many people are involved in the protection of the children in their local area.
Who we are helping:
The project supports children and young people who are living and working on four main dumpsites in Freetown, their families, local schools and communities
How we help:
Achievements during Year 2 (2016):
The project continues to maintain a strong working relationship with community leaders, school authorities, the police and the line ministries. Community perceptions, for example their awareness and understanding of child abuse, have been changed. Community members initially understood abuse to be about physically or sexually hurting a child. They were therefore turning a blind eye to the exploitation of children, exposure to hazardous conditions, and other actions that may pose potential harm. They were also of the opinion that street-connected children are “bad “children. Through sessions with social workers, they now understand that these children should be protected from the conditions they are living in on the dumpsites, and are now supportive of street-connected children, instead of being judgemental.
The relationship of trust and confidentiality between SCoSL social workers and the children supported in year 1 has motivated new children to engage in the project, as they see the benefits and positive impact of the intervention on the lives of their peers. They recognise the interaction is in their best interests and makes their lives better.
During 2016 SCoSL has also strengthened the child protection case management system to meet the requirements of the Government’s new National Framework for Child Protection Case Management. They have also been collaborating with Mazepoint, a UK private sector business management consultancy, on the development of a new data collection and analysis programme that will allow SCoSL workers based in field locations to register and review individual case files through a secure Android App. Mazepoint is subsidising the App development costs as part of their corporate social responsibility activities and plan to launch the App in Sierra Leone in April 2017.
ChildHope’s Child Protection & Safeguarding Learning Manager facilitated a 3-day workshop with participation from the Dumpsite Project Team and representatives from local partners, Codwela and Future for Children. The workshop covered each step of the case management process, examining the tools that were being introduced and providing training on the underlying principles and practices. The teams also worked on procedures for longer term family monitoring and the introduction and criteria for case closure to help reduce the size of the caseload of individual social workers.
Challenges and how we are overcoming them
Children resorting to a life on the streets and dumpsites: Two years into the project, we expected the number of new children going to the dumpsites to significantly reduce. However, the tough economic conditions have been pushing more children to go and work on dumpsites. SCoSL has therefore intensified its engagement with parents, children and community members around the dumpsite, so they understand why it is not a good place for children, and why they should be in school. We plan to use some of the children supported in year 1, to explain what they went through in the dumpsite, and encourage the other children to stay away.
Some schools have been worried that the reunited street children might be of some bad influence to other children in the schools. Engagement between the project teams and school authorities were increased to discuss and resolve the concerns, which has greatly helped address this challenge.
How this will improve the child’s life:
Children and young people involved in the project, who enrol and succeed in school, will have the opportunity to break the cycle of poverty, moving away from a life of hazardous work on the dumpsite. When they complete their education their chances of securing safer, better paid work will be significantly increased. Their parents will have an increased understanding of why and how to support their children and encourage them to go to school, and will be in a better position, financially, to allow this to happen. Communities will become safer places for children, as important community members – e.g. staff in schools, health professionals, community leaders, police – will have a better understanding of why and how to protect the children they are responsible for
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