About to enter her final year at the University of Nairobi, Sheila Kerubo is poised to embark on a lifelong journey working to support the most vulnerable members of our society. Her remarkable compassion and nurturing instinct, developed well beyond her years, drive Sheila’s commitment to her community. As a social work major, Sheila feels that she has found her passion. “I’m all in,” she shares, “I don’t think I could ever leave this work.”
Sheila came to Tatua out of a desire to find a way to more extensively support a community of street children that she had built strong relationships with. “It all started when I met Kevin one day, as I was waiting for a mat home,” reveals Sheila, “Kevin was young and homeless. We soon began talking and he shared a little bit of his background with me, and he began to explain that he was hoping to go back to school. I wanted to help but I didn’t have any money, so I asked him to take my phone number and give me a call the next day.” Kevin hesitated. As Sheila recounts, a long history of having supposed “well-wishers” either give him incorrect information or take a picture of him only to disappear, had made Kevin extremely cautious. “When I finally convinced him to take down my information, I knew that no matter what came up, I had to be there the next day.”
This initial connection sparked the formation of a new community. Sheila quickly became ‘Aunty Sheila’ and made visiting Kevin and a group of other street children in the CBD a part of her daily routine. “Sometimes it will be two kids, sometimes eighteen,” says Sheila with a laugh, “They’ve even been to my house, and brought my mum a hostess gift of sugar, salt and tea leaves.”
Now, partnered with another Tatua Fellow, Beatrice, Sheila hopes to do more to address the systemic causes of youth homelessness. Having had the opportunity to connect with these children has revealed to Sheila the importance of giving them their childhood back. “I rarely give these kids money. Sometimes I bring them food but sometimes I have to go empty-handed,” she explains, “I’ve discovered that mostly, these kids want people to treat them like kids. Ask how their day was. Prove that you’re someone that they can count on.”
Sheila and Beatrice hope to create communities of support for these children. Communities that are prepared to forgive and be loving, and work with the children to redress the causes of their homelessness. They also want make the lives of street children a budget priority for county governments, to facilitate that work.
We at Tatua are proud to walk alongside them.
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