Beatrice has the sort of warmth and optimism that our modern cynicism has beaten out of us. Her quiet demeanor and natural humility mask her formidable determination and awe-inspiring kindness, but one quickly realizes what an incredible person Beatrice is as she begins to describe her journey through community work.
As the youngest in her family of eight with much older siblings, Beatrice often longed for the company of other children; a sentiment she believes cultivated her affection for other children. This coupled with memories of her own deep attachment to her parents, and her family home has meant that seeing a child out on the street has always moved her to action.
Beatrice began informally working to rehabilitate street children about ten years ago, when she and her husband would take in children whom they found on the streets of their neighborhood at the time, Githurai. In an incredible display of dedication, Beatrice would then begin the process of tracing these children’s families and attempt to establish what factors had resulted in homelessness.
Through this work, Beatrice began to realize that problems leading to homelessness among the youth were far from intractable. “Most of the time, the core problem was very easily solved,” she explains, “Certainly, there was a stigma attached to these children when they were returned – especially in their school communities – but it often didn’t take much more than having someone vouch for the child, for school administrators to welcome the children back in.” Her benevolence quickly turned into her life’s work when she joined the Children at Risk Ministries, where she still works today.
Her long career in community service working with street children has revealed to Beatrice the urgency of addressing the systemic roots of this problem. “The Nairobi City Council has redoubled its efforts to get children off the streets and into children’s homes,” explained Beatrice, “But there’s no budget assigned to care for these children once they are taken from the street into these homes, and so the quality of care is really wanting.”
Realizing that rescued children then have no real paths towards recovery or reintegration has spurred Beatrice to take deeper action. Now, paired up with another Tatua Fellow – Sheila – Beatrice wants to figure out how communities can be prepared to welcome these children back home. As Beatrice explains, multiple actors must be included in this conversation. “It’s not just about finding the child’s home; we must also be prepared to mediate between family members, school communities, church communities and all other stakeholders, to make sure that a child who once ran away, is successfully and safely resettled.”
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