number 6, december 10, 1998

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Street kids move to their own plot

By Nicholas Kerr

Fungwa used to survive by begging and by finding food scraps in the rubbish tins in Harare’s streets. Now he grows his own vegetables.

Fungwa is now 15. He was born on the streets. He lived on the streets with his parents, brother and two sisters. Two years ago his mother died and he went to a centre for street children supported by the international organisation, Nest, the Harare City Presbyterian Church, the WCC and well-wishers in Harare.

The children are aged between 6 and 16. They do not like to be called street children anymore and have decided to call the centre the Melford Farm Children’s Club. It is about 40 minutes drive from Harare. About 120 children are at the centre.

"I hear of this place before," Fungwa said. "When my mother die, I want to come here because I want to go to school. I want to learn English. I speak a little English when I was on the streets, just a little. Now I’m learning to speak pretty good English. But I want to learn better.

"I was illiterate when I come. Now I can read and write.  I can spell."

Fungwa used to be in the streets. "Sometimes people give, sometimes not.  It is not good to beg. It make me feel real bad inside.

"It was very bad on the streets. Sometimes it is very cold and wet. We cannot eat properly. We very often get sick. We eat junk food from the rubbish, what you call leftovers. We go through the bins when the shops close. You often get chips in the bins, sometimes a bit of old salad. But we go very, very hungry and we have no proper clothes for wearing."

Earlier this year the WCC gave a grant to the children’s club to help the children establish a vegetable garden and orchard. Each child has his or her own plot.

"I think the garden is good," Fungwa said. "First the ground was ploughed. Then we do everything else with our own hands. We plant seed, and water and weed and put on manure."

Fungwa grows spinach, maize and onions in his plot. "Every morning I come to look at my garden to see what is happening," he said. "Every day we work in the garden after school. It is good. We have fun and we laugh.

" Look how big my spinach is! Today when we finish we take some vegetables to the kitchen. And look at my maize! A little while ago it was just seeds! Look how it grows! In January it will produce and we will harvest it! Yes! Wow!

"Our food is better now we have the garden. I do not feel sick any more."

Fungwa wants to stay on at the club for a year or two when he finishes school. "I want to stay and help the little ones," he said. "Then I want to find work. I don’t know what, anything good. Perhaps I will keep on growing vegetables.

"And when I have money I will not forget all the people on the streets. Perhaps I give them clothes for wearing when it is cold. Perhaps I help them get food. When I was on the streets I didn’t have anything. Now I have a garden to grow, and a school and a place to sleep. I cannot ever forget the others on the streets because it is so bad."

Fungwa is not the real name of the boy we interviewed.

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Read other articles in this issue:

Capoeira, their way to move around campus
Children say it's time for action &
World's most dynamic schoolboy?
Children issue some challenges
CNN world news coverage ‘mile wide, half-inch thick’
Young speak of dignity
God of many names
Street kids have their own plot
An advent night in Africa

8th Assembly and 50th Anniversary

copyright 1998 World Council of Churches. Remarks to webeditor