Australian artist sees street children as creatives, not
1 weeks ago, 19:20
Street Children are represented in virtually every town in Kenya today, and there’s a broad consensus that those who walk around city streets begging with a bottle of glue in hand are either criminals or just generally “bad people”.
They’re commonly known as ‘chokora’, a term that literally translates from Kiswahili to mean ‘scavenger.’ But Lenore Boyd doesn’t see them in that light. Instead, the Australian artist who’s lived in Kenya off and on for the last six years is passionate about helping these youth who she’s been working with since she first arrived. It all began with a 12 year old lad she met on the street whose name is Simon.
Simon Njoroge is now an 18 year old school boy who loves sports and excels in his studies. But he’s not your average boarding school student. Instead, he’s one of the ‘stars’ in Kenyan filmmaker Eunice Akinyi Brown’s new film, ‘Alfajiri Breaking Dawn’ which was recently shown at the Shifteye Gallery.
The film was part of a larger exhibition called ‘Alfajiri Street Kids Art’ which was organized by Lenore, the founder of Alfajiri. She’s also in Akinyi’s film since it’s largely about what’s resulted from her meeting Simon shortly after she came to Kenya as a volunteer with a church group working with orphans and children who were HIV positive.
Simon was neither an orphan nor HIV positive. But he was from an exceedingly poor background. His widowed mother was so badly off that she couldn’t feed him, leave alone send him to school, which was why he came to town in the first place. He was literally in search of something to eat as well as a way to get into a school.
‘But like so many street children, Simon had nothing and no one to help him climb out poverty. Under such circumstances, it’s no wonder boys [and girls] like him resort to drugs to numb the pain of poverty and loneliness,” Lenore says compassionately
“His hands were literally shaking when he came up to me and asked for help,” says Lenore who didn’t see him as a beggar or a thief or any other kind of criminal.
Her response to Simon was quite unlike most people’s reaction to these glue-sniffing kids. Fearlessly, she actually asked him what he wanted and needed. Of course, he needed food. But more importantly, he said he wanted to go to school, which is what she’s been helping him do ever since. She’s also helped him go back to see his mother who she’s helped to start up a small fruit sellers business.
“I’ve always loved Mother Theresa and the work she did among the poor,” admits Lenore who got a bird’s eye view of poverty in Kenya through her initial encounter with Simon. She only stayed in the country for two months initially. But that was time enough for her to get him into a boarding school and to meet several more street boys whose tragic lives touched her ...
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