Like many regions of Africa, the poverty stricken areas of Mbeya, Tanzania, are home to children experiencing life’s biggest challenges. Often orphaned, usually co-existing in one room with several other siblings and kin, these children receive only one meal a day. The head of the household ekes out a living perhaps from a small plot nearby, selling a few vegetables, or possibly by making and selling sweets or the local pombe (homebrew). Alcoholism, prostitution and drug abuse are prevalent, as is AIDS.
Young girls are left at home to care for the younger children. The boys are left to their own devices, too often forsaking school for the chance to “find” food or “earn” money on the streets through stealing and gambling. If caught by the authorities, they are sent to a Remand Home where they sit and wait for their trial. If not, they easily fall into a life of crime. There are services available to help the girls and boys who present as “good” children, but for those who are labeled “bad”, there are no avenues for help. They are regarded as Watukutu (scum of society).
Hope for the Future began in 2002 with visits to the local Remand Home, a facility that houses young boys (ages 10 – 18) who have been arrested for petty crime and/or violent behaviour. When these children were released, some of them had no safe place to go. Concern for these abandoned and vulnerable children led Hope for the Future to establish a Residential Program in 2002, to provide these boys with a home and family. Two years later an after school program called the Inner City Program opened it doors to give the many street kids a safe place with structured and meaningful activity. As the numbers attending the ICP grew, it became obvious that only a small percentage of these children were actually able to attend and remain in school. Thus the School Sponsorship Program was birthed.