Like most institutions in the country, Scripture Union‘s Thuthuka Street Children’s Project is plagued by financial difficulties that are hindering it from effectively conducting its operations.

According to a project proposal, the organisation requires USD 82,000 annually to operate efficiently. The document also states that only 28 percent of this amount will go towards administrative costs and staff salaries. The rest would be channelled towards the implementation of the actual programmes and activities.

The funding ensures over 1,000 children and 2,000 community members benefit directly and indirectly, respectively.

In 1995, an abandoned child walked into the offices of SU and eternally altered the mindset of the staff. After that life-changing encounter, the Organisation decided to commence a project that sought to rehabilitate, reunify and reintegrate street children into society.

Thuthuka aims to entice children from the streets to reunify them with their families and assist them to reach their full potential.

In a recent wide-ranging interview, SU Thuthuka Street Children’s Project Coordinator, Tracey Setoboli, cemented this notion by emphasising their desire to reunite the estranged children with their families or to introduce them into new ones where necessary. “Our role is to get in touch with the children on the streets. The idea is to build a relationship with these children. When we build this relationship, we then make an effort and overall goal to reunite them with their families. We bring them into our programmes,” she said.

Painting the girls hostel at Scripture Union’s Thuthuka Street Children’s Project

Setoboli made a plea to society to understand that most of the children are not living on the streets of their own volition. “As to why we have children on the streets, generally it’s because of the problems that the nation is going through. Economic problems, the family breakdown, HIV/AIDS, result in a child becoming either a single or a double orphan. Normally with the death of parents, the children are left with their grandparents in the rural areas and they end up dropping out of school due to the unavailability of funds. And this is when they resort to going to towns, mines and cities and they eventually end up on the streets. Contrary to popular belief, only a minority of the street children are on the streets because they are delinquent, most of the ones we are dealing with are genuine cases,” she said emphatically.

The project has assisted more than 600 children and has facilitated the reunification of 65 percent of the children with their families. It has also facilitated the adoption of some of the children by foster care institutions.

Thuthuka also trains the children in life skills such as motor mechanics, metal fabrication, panel beating, carpentry, dressmaking, polish and candle making, gardening, poultry and art. Eighty-five children have been trained and 60 percent of these have either found employment or have embarked on projects as a form of self-employment.

The Christian organisation operates from two angles. It has a contact centre, which serves as a “drop-in” site. This centre is situated at the central business district for ease of access to the children.

This centre is the place of initial contact with the children. The street children are free to visit the centre to bath, do their laundry and have meals before they make the decision to join the centre on a full-time basis. The organisation does not compel them to move in but it “can only show them the water and let them decide whether to drink or not.”

Once contact has been made at the “town centre,” the children are taken to the training centre in Trenance, a suburb of Bulawayo. It is at this centre that intense rehabilitation takes place. Apart from teaching life skills, such activities as counselling, relationship building, family tracing, assessment and psychosocial support are conducted.

As another way of assisting the rehabilitation of the children into society, Thuthuka discourages well-wishers and other people to give financial help to the children, as this increases the cases of drug abuse. Scripture Union encourage members of the community to approach organisations that deal with the children and make their monetary endowment, as these institutions have skilled individuals who can assist the children utilise the funds responsibly.

The project aims to achieve the prime goal of rehabilitating the children and the education of both the children and adult community members on HIV/AIDS, community leadership skills and child rights.

If this is a cause you would like to assist then please get in touch with Angela Mason at [email protected]