It started with a question:
How does a child end up on the streets?

Athalie Sapp |  Founder


It started with a question:
How does a child end up on the streets?

"7 years ago, I started working with underprivileged children in Nairobi, Kenya. During a trip there in 2011, I had my first “encounter” with a street boy. His name was Nelson and he was incredibly thin, young, and was wearing clothes fit for someone 6 feet tall.

He happened to be standing by just as I had my camera stolen from me in the market place. I was momentarily grieving the loss of my photos from that trip when he caught my eye.

What I saw in this young boy stopped me dead in my tracks. He had the sway of someone who was drunk, and his eyes were a startling red. He wasn’t doing anything really - just sort of standing there. I've worked with homeless populations before, but had never seen such a young person, a child, in a state like this. I was there with a Kenyan friend that is a social worker, and he approached Nelson with me. As this young boy began sharing with us about why he was on the streets, I noticed he had a lump in his sleeve, and when he thought none of us were looking, he would lift it up to his nose and inhale. I later learned that that was his bottle of glue. He told us his brother had been killed by the police that week and that he had nowhere to go, and that he wanted to go to school but had no way to pay the fees. My friend directed him to a shelter for street kids, and we parted ways.

Questions flooded my mind as I looked at Nelson- and these questions have been weighing on me ever since. I started observing these children and asking locals about the problem. I learned that most of the children on the streets are boys, are runaways, and that the problem is a relatively new one - that 30+ years ago, seeing a homeless child in this region was quite rare. The more answers I found, the more questions I had. I couldn't let it go. I wanted to understand how this problem started, how it persists, and how it can be fixed. 

Determined to find answers, I returned back to the states, applied to graduate school, and conducted my thesis research on the problem of street children in Nairobi, Kenya and other parts of Sub Saharan Africa. After graduating, I spent some time in South Africa, asking more questions and observing other organizations. Eight trips to Africa and countless hours of work and research  later, my findings presented me with a dilemma: be satisfied with the research and move on, or respond to the needs that the research revealed.

The most pressing need that emerged was this:

A need for male-focused interventions that aim to prevent young boys from ending up on the streets. 

I am responding.

I found that over the last few decades, humanitarian efforts have focused largely on women and girls, and that boys and men have been significantly overlooked in many of these initiatives. This can be verified by simply googling "organizations for girls" vs. "organizations for boys". The bulk of the organizations that appear either focus on just girls, or both boys and girls - but almost none are for just boys. 
Statistics show that the numbers of single mother, fatherless homes have been on the rise amidst increasing poverty levels in Kenya and SSA. And we know that most street boys have run away from such homes.
I also found that urbanization trends, among other aspects of modernization in Sub Saharan Africa, have deeply impacted family and community structures, and that men have been systematically displaced from their families and homes over the last 40+ years for various reasons. 
I see the amazing advocacy work and services provided in response to gender inequality and the need for female focused initiatives,
and I believe that if boys and men are not explicitly included, societies will continue to grow increasingly lopsided. 

So, this one is for the boys."

-Athalie Sapp (Founder)