Street Child provides street-connected children in West Africa, including Ebola orphans, with access to education. There are many complex reasons why street children do not access education, and with our funders we work to solve as many of these challenges as possible, via an innovative, multi-disciplinary approach that is simple, scalable, sustainable, and nimble, while bringing maximum impact for beneficiaries and funders.
Many agencies operate by bringing a single solution to one problematic issue. In contrast, Street Child operates by addressing every aspect of a family’s needs from the bottom up, to ensure that every unit supported has the maximum capacity to run its own future. Sustainability, for us, is vital.
We also work with local implementation partners, which gives us a unique reach into some of the most disadvantaged, marginalized communities in the regions where we work; this means we can be sure that our support is always going to the populations who need it the most, and that it reaches them very quickly.
We are a small organization, without bureaucracy, and our model does not require complex, expensive solutions. For less than $500, an entire family can be provided with the means to eat, send their child to school, and save for their future.
The model has four strands, each an integral part of ensuring sustainable school attendance:
At the core of our work is financial sustainability; alleviating hunger, stress, and ill-health and getting children into education are almost impossible without also providing opportunities for people to generate their own income. We offer families of street-connected children, or Ebola orphans, the opportunity to enroll on our Urban Business Scheme, where they learn to create or develop a small business. The scheme provides grants, training and one-to-one mentoring for the participants, supporting them for as long as it takes to get the business off the ground and making a profit.
Crucially, we also provide savings opportunities for caregivers, ensuring their economic resilience into the future and helping them create a safety net for when life inevitably takes a wrong turn. Encouraging savings can be more effective than offering vulnerable populations debt, and so we offer our beneficiaries grants, as well as loans, and require them to put money aside each week to save for their future. A condition of scheme enrollment is that the family uses some of the profit to pay for their children’s education.
We also provide income generation schemes in rural areas, whereby both individuals and communities benefit from the chance to farm seed and sell the surplus, either to feed a family, or to subsidize the local school.
Providing people with an asset for longer-term sustainability is almost never a successful strategy if the grant receiver lacks basic elements of survival, such as food. To ensure our business scheme is impactful, we therefore provide emergency aid for families, such as food, clothing, school uniforms and bedding, reducing their need to sell or eat their asset before it has the chance to generate income.
Feeding into this fulcrum of sustainability are family tracing, reunification, mentoring and counselling. Children are more likely to succeed in education if they live in a supportive environment with responsible adults with whom they feel safe, and so Street Child works to identify immediate or extended family for the children, reunite them, and then provide parenting advice, workshops and one-to-one support to ensure that the relationships are healthy and sustainable. We also provide the children, where necessary, with counselling, therapy and other support aimed at helping them cope with grief and loss, trauma from sexual and other physical abuse, drug or alcohol addiction, stigma and bullying.
The above components of our model are all aimed at one goal: getting children into school and learning, for their futures. There are other practical aspects to our education offering, however. We provide community education around Ebola transmission, to reduce stigma for orphans and facilitate finding willing caregivers, but also to help stop transmission rates. Educating communities around the value of education itself is also very important, to reduce the pressure families can put on children to leave school and contribute to the household financially instead. We also build schools and train teachers in rural communities.