on the streets of arusha

john at workDuring the day, Arusha is a pulsing tornado of hustling pedestrians and blaring car horns set against a glittering skyline of tin-roofed shanties and countless windowed storefronts. As night descends, the cars and people recede into the fading sunlight and out from the shadows come the children who call the streets home, searching for a safe place to huddle away from the night’s horrors.

Since 2001, Amani Children’s Home has been looking out for these children and The Intrepid Foundation has helped support their efforts to provide a peaceful haven for homeless kids. Every night new children appear on the streets, and each evening John Mbati, Amani’s Street Educator and a trained Tanzanian social worker, heads into the shroud of night to try to help these vulnerable youngsters.

John often begins his rounds at a small food stand where many homeless children wash dishes in exchange for leftover scraps of food. The stand’s owner cooks on a single-burner stove, cradling a baby swaddled in a jacket three sizes too large. Beside her, children are rinsing plastic plates in a tub of brownish-gray water.

As John greets the woman, a small group of faces turn towards him in the dull spray of light falling from the single streetlamp above them. “Teacher, teacher!” the children shout as they run towards his familiar face. Many children on the streets are skeptical of adults and John has worked hard to build a relationship of trust with these children. With a smile, John pulls a tattered deck of playing cards from his shirt pocket. Tonight there are two children he has never seen before. One smiles beneath a face of open sores.

After a few card games and a long talk where the boys tell him their stories, John stands and stretches his arms over his head. He can see the hunger in the fallen cheeks of the boys. He pays the food stand owner, who produces plates of rice and beef stew. After they finish the plates of food, John encourages them to come with him to Amani, where they’ll be safe. He tells them to meet him at the bus-stand the following morning and to bring all of their belongings.

Day breaks on the next day, and John finishes his coffee and begins the walk towards what he hopes will be a child ready for their second chance. He rounds the corner and three skinny bodies run towards him, yelling, “Teacher, teacher!” Through grinning teeth, John asks them where their things are. “He has them”, one of the boys says, pointing to the child with the sores on his face. The boy is wearing a makeshift cape, fashioned from a dusty, checkered napkin. He holds out his chapped hands, wherein lies a single dead battery.

The three children return with John to Amani and begin their new lives. The boys visit Amani’s nurse and receive a check-up on their first day. Over the coming weeks, they’ll begin school at Amani while Amani’s social workers begin their search for relatives of the children who might be able to provide a safe and happy environment in which the children can grow up.

The following evening John is back on the streets, looking for other children with no where else to turn.

You can help Amani Children’s Home today via the Intrepid Foundation – Amani is dedicated to creating a path for each child that leads to a future filled with hope. Your online donation will help make that happen, and every dollar you give will be matched by Intrepid Travel!

About the author

Sue Elliot - Like many of us, Sue contracted a serious travel bug at an early age. She's visited over 90 countries in search of a cure, but her wanderlust just seems to get worse. Thankfully at Intrepid Travel she's amongst people who understand the affliction and since 1998 Sue has enjoyed being our blog and newsletter editor. Here you'll find helpful travel advice and inspiring tales from Sue and other Intrepid travellers.

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What a moving description, thank you Intrepid.
How many homeless children are there in Arusha and how much space does Amani have? Are there other homes doing the same type of work?
God bless John and the children he’s helping.

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