Today we had programmed an easier, friendlier day. We packed our bags and had them transported to the new motel we were staying in, the one we were supposed to be staying in the whole time, except for a ‘mix up’ in booking. We were to visit the African Hearts Home School, the Family Home and the main School.
So we headed to the Home School. It is located a fair way out of town and for a good reason. The way African Hearts works is they have a couple of men who live full time in the slums. They monitor the young boys in the slums and essentially, if they find vulnerable young boys they ask if they would like to leave, go to school and have a better future. If the boys agree, AH need to obtain approval from the government and parents if they can be found. The boys then demonstrate they are willing to change and they are removed and taken out of town to the Home School where they are ‘cleaned up’ from drugs and sniffing Jet fuel and taught some maths and English basics and/or taught the skills they need to attend school in their correct grade. They live on-site and are fed on-site by a live in ‘Aunty’ and the Home School is positioned here so that the boys can’t run away back to the streets or slums again. When they are at a stage that they have learned the basics, have successfully been weaned off drugs and can integrate, they are moved to the main school where they also live onsite if they can’t go back to their family. Currently funding has been raised to build a new boys dormitory at the school so they can again use the class room as a class room. I met some lovely young boys here, the youngest being 7 years old, who had been there a month and was still suffering from the side effects of his drug use. But they appeared bright, happy and enjoying their class work. They had a small stall of 4 cows which they milked to supply milk for the school and Family home and sold the rest to help pay for the other costs. The cow dung was collected and put into a fermenter and the gas given off was syphoned and used to fuel the gas stove in the kitchen.
The Family Home was nearby and housed other boys. I think from memory they were older boys taken off the street or out of the slums who they kept in separate accommodation from the younger boys to avoid bullying. This property had its own small garden plot where they grew some veges and bananas for self consumption and sale. I thought the house looked like a house half built or at lock up stage, but I have a feeling this was the final stage and they were very happy with it. Outside was the toilets, there was no shower, they just had a bucket bath behind the kitchen. The toilet was just a cubicle like ours but without a toilet – just a hole in the concrete to squat over. I guess you need to be pretty good with your aim, otherwise you get wet feet. The kitchen was a shed-like room with an oven made of a hole in the side of a brick square to light the fire and feed wood into, a steel cover over it like a hot plate and a domed lid to fit over so you could roast or keep the heat in. You just feed the wood along the ground into the fire to keep it going.
The school was much bigger than I had thought. A lot of young children are going there, some are funded by AH, some by sponsorship and some by paying parents. And this is where many of the street or slum kids end up – getting a full education with good job prospects afterwards. So different from a life of crime and violence for the boys or a life of prostitution for the girls in the slums or on the streets. Tomorrow we visit the slums and see where it all starts for many of the boys and girls who are now blessed by schooling, shelter, love and meals.