What does it mean to be an enabler? The dictionary defines the word enabler as giving means, to make able, to give competence, to give power. Children are living in the streets of Kisumu because many well meaning organizations and individuals are “enabling” them to be there. Charity, even to a child should always be given with an outcome goal in mind and take into consideration and the best interest of the individual.
     The children on the street are very wise, they know every organization and exactly what they will do for them. Monday organization “A” will give beef stew, ugali and a vegetable. The children leave and go back to the street very happy with a full stomach. They return to their “work” of begging, sweeping out public service vehicles and even stealing for the evening meal. On Tuesday organization “B” will give the children first aid care and beans & rice to eat along with a fruit juice. After attending that session the child will return to the street, to his place of “work” and look for money or a way to get his meal in the evening. On Wednesday organization “C” will prepare a meal of maize, beans and a chapati, the kids will have an opportunity to wash their clothes and even have a chance to change a torn shirt for a clean shirt in better condition. After that, it’s back to the street and begging for small change to get the evening meal. On Thursday organization “D” has a program to help the kids academically, the kids can do a craft or test out their math skills or write something. They will receive a meal of hot porridge, fruit and bread. After that, it’s back to carrying boxes for a few shillings to get some tea in the evening. On Friday organization “E” invites kids to come to the sports ground for a game of soccer, after the game they get some juice and a chapatti, then it’s back to the city garbage dump to collect metal scraps, bottles and anything of value to sell. On Saturday there is a special event taking place at the sports ground, the kids gather in large numbers and find easy begging from tourists and visitors to the event. On Sunday organization “F” holds a special church on the street and prepares a meal of omena (small fish) and ugali. The children sing and hear the word of God. After, they return to the street or the bus stage to beg, steal or find odd jobs so they can get their evening tea.
     Can you see the problem? Where is the outcome goal? It’s our human nature to see a situation and act out of mercy and a sense of pity thinking that we are helping, but we need to ask the question; are we really helping or are we enabling? How will this help a child in the long term? Are we encouraging the children to remain on the street by making life there easy for them? By providing them with their most basic need we are enabling them, giving them power, giving them the means to remain on the street. It’s like the welfare system in the U.S. as long as things are okay, as long as needs are being met why make any changes, why work for pennies when the system is providing for the basic needs?
     At Capstone we are looking at the problem beyond the stomach of the child. We are looking at the root cause that has brought the child to the street. We have many challenges and we have a battle that grows stronger every day, a force that draws the child to the street, we have the “enablers” working against us. The children run away from their homes because they know life is easy on the street, they don’t suffer, they will never be hungry, they don’t have to be in school or be accountable to any form of discipline; they have friends there. We are losing our children we are losing the battle. Well-meaning people who want to help are not helping; those who are acting out of love and compassion are actually encouraging the children to be in street.
     Capstone Ministries follows a similar program for a street outreach. It’s true we have to entice the kids with food to bring them in. We allow them to take a bath; we give first aide attention to wounds or some medical care to those who are sick. We play games, we share the word of God as an encouragement but we also give a strong message about home and the value of education. We counsel and guide the children. With some we “get through” some children begin to think and evaluate their situation they start to think about the choices they have made. We pray for that time to come for the child, we pray that they will not be enabled for too long. This is the point in time when Capstone can step in and really make a difference.
     The greatest point I want to make in this writing is that we, people with well meaning hearts, organizations that want to help the children are not always working in the best long-term interest of the child, many are simply enabling. Some are encouraging and increasing the problem of street children. I request that we all look at long-term solutions rather than a solution for today.     
     Today’s solution does nothing for tomorrow or the next day. We must look at the macro picture of street children; we must look at child and his family, look at next week, next year and generations to come.

Patty Schmelzer

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