The Wema Centre, Kenya

Street children in Kenya are provided with shelter, clothing, food, healthcare, psychosocial support and education at the inspirational Wema Centre. It has become a safe haven for over 500 girls, many of whom go on to live normal, healthy, independent lives. Winner of a STARS Foundation Impact Award.

Film by Tim Tyson Short and Caroline Noble for the STARS Foundation.

The Wema Centre was selected for a STARS Foundation Impact Award in recognition of its extraordinary work with street children in Kenya.

The challenge
The welfare of its street children, a high percentage of whom are orphaned by HIV/AIDS, presents an ongoing challenge to modern Kenya. The levels of poverty in which these children live makes it very difficult for them to access basic services, deepening their marginalisation from the wider community and increasing their likelihood of becoming involved in sex tourism. A study conducted by UNICEF and the Government of Kenya indicates that there are around 15,000 children involved in sex tourism in Kenya’s coastal regions. Orphans were highlighted in the report as a particularly vulnerable group.

The response
The Wema Centre (Well Being Centre in Kiswahili) provides comprehensive care for street children, especially girls, and educational opportunities for orphans and vulnerable children from the Coast and Central Provinces, in the Mombasa, Kisauni and Thika districts.  The centre provides shelter, clothing, food, healthcare, psychosocial support and education to children. Where possible it seeks to reunite street children with their families and works with government offices across the country and village elders to monitor their progress and ensure effective reintegration. Moreover, the centre works with government to increase awareness and understanding of the issue at national level.

The result
The Wema Centre has grown organically from being a home catering for six street girls in 1993 to becoming a safe haven for over 500 girls, many of whom go on to live normal, healthy, independent lives. It currently operates three homes providing shelter for almost 200 children, mostly girls, offering complete protection against sexual abuse and exploitation. Additionally, through various schools, centres, outreach and partner bodies Wema reaches over 13,000 children and vulnerable young people in slum communities in the Mombasa Coastal Province and the Thika Central Province.

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