HOVIC stands for Help for Children of Victoria…Victoria is the largest lake in the world, so big it is surrounded by Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.
There are an estimated 20,000 children working or sleeping rough on the streets in Kisumu, a lakeside region of Kenya. Many of these street kids are AIDS orphans and have been made homeless after losing their parents.
HOVIC has been working with these children since 2003. Initially running a feeding programme, today it runs a drop-in centre in Kisumu which offers food, showers, non-formal education and counselling. The project provides shelter at night and better access to informal health care.
I volunteered to create a live blogging campaign, with Annie and Tanya, and so we joined the Comic Relief team at HOVIC, on the launch of campaigning for Red Nose Day 2015. David Walliams was also volunteering his time, delivering 10 live radio and television link ups, so it was a pretty insane couple of hours. The afternoon jumped from snapping David pacing the grounds surrounded by boys climbing trees, to meeting and talking to children currently at the project who were learning craft skills they can sell, like Lara’s intricate beading below:
We met Nancy who had passed a sewing test and was keen to be able to afford a sewing machine so she could set up her own business. Parental illness had meant she had no money for school fees. She described how low and lacking in self confidence she felt on arriving at Hovic, how the project had given her direction, hope and skills; she told us her story with such confidence, despite us being complete strangers.
The Hovic set up is a wonderful atmosphere, it is such a colourful, fun place to be. It was great for filming in that it looks like a ready made film set, but more importantly, there is something very uplifting about it that the young people clearly love too.
These boys were getting a meal, and were keen to talk gadgets with me, my phone, my watch, my camera, and to ask if more money was coming to pay their school fees, or if I could pay them.
By far the most challenging bit of this visit has been talking to young people. The lasting change the projects have made to their lives is incredibly evident, but they are now hungry to continue their education and not being able to afford compulsory high school fees is a real stumbling block for so many of the children we met.
You will see in the video, I found this really tough. Young people wear their hearts on their sleeves and the world seems so unfair – you have this, but I don’t.
The young people were incredibly polite and confident and keen to talk, it was wonderful to meet such eager to learn teenagers.
Comic Relief project grants are made for a period of years so that change can be achieved and sustained, ongoing donations are so important for lasting change to happen. HOVIC is able to tackle more long term issues by helping more children get back into education, giving them a brighter future. Older children who do not want to return home are given vocational training and helped with small group accommodation.
For younger boys the chance to play and dance in safety is clearly a real release from fear and uncertainty of life on the streets.
And you must see them in action in the video – they are incredible!
The relationships the project builds with these children also provide an opportunity to educate the kids with life-saving information on how to prevent the spread of HIV, which is incredibly prevalent in Kisumu.
If it is appropriate, street children are reunited with their families or with extended family members. Support is given to families through home visits, providing advice on giving adequate care to the children and preventing them from returning to the street. Regular follow-up assessment visits are made to children who have been reintegrated or placed in foster care.
Both in their early twenties, Joseph and Daniel grew up on the streets together and are now Hovic success stories. Joseph was orphaned and living alone and decided to walk the 500 km to Kisumu to try and find his fortune. When Daniel’s father died his mother’s new partner was abusive and treated him differently to the rest of the family so aged 10 he ran away. After time on the streets where Joseph became addicted to drugs, both found their way to HOVIC when it first opened and have gained the life skills need to be fit and healthy and both earn money repairing motorbikes.
There was time to watch a iive link up to This Morning on ITV. Then it was time to grab our bags and head for the airport. The Comic Relief team and David left straight after the boradcast too, everyone struggled to detach themselves and leave Africa so abruptly.
We didn’t spend long at Hovic, but both the projects where we met young people had a profound effect on me. I’ve started to explain that here in this film. And you must see these kids dance, and see it for yourself, let me take you to Hovic?
The sun was setting as we flew from Kisumu to Narobi. But that’s not the end of the adventure. It is going to be an interesting week I think, of reassessing my priorities, sifting though the amazing things I have experienced, and of course storytelling.
Comic Relief has awarded £631,466 to HOVIC’s UK Partner, Widows and Orphans to support its work helping to improve the lives of street children
How can I Help?
FUNRAISE! Sign up to join Team Honk for Red Nose Day Danceathon and/or raise money on Red Nose Day with schools, work, friends and family.
Sponsor me to dance for six hours solid for Red Nose Day.
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