Reaching vulnerable children & young people with the good news of Jesus, Kathleen Quellmalz and Sandra Meyer, work with the Safina Network reaching out to street children in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania.
It’s 7.00 a.m. The sun is rising; already life is busy on the streets of Dar es Salaam. We’re down town and the doors of the Safina Drop-In Centre have just opened. Here they come, boys with empty plastic sacks, which served them at night as a blanket and will be filled during the day with empty bottles. While we meet as staff for prayers, the boys next door play UNO, draw pictures or just have a snooze. At 8.15 a.m., we join together for singing and devotion. We pray that God´s word would reach their hearts and reveal Jesus´ love to them.
My name is Nicholaus…
My name is Nicholaus. When I was young I was living on the streets, begging and looking for help. I felt rejected by the community and started to reject myself. Both of my parents died when I was still young. While living on the streets I met with people from Safina. They shared with me about the love of Jesus, which finally transformed my life. I was able to go back to school and last year finished my degree in Social Work. I thank Safina for all the help and support I received over many years financially, morally and spiritually. I am happy to work with Safina today to help others like me.
Breakfast is ready and everyone enjoys a hot cup of tea and bread. Now many get busy to go back to the streets. But others will stay behind: some to receive medical treatment; others want to talk. We listen. Some ask to be taken back to their families, others to our shelter. By now it is almost 11 a.m. and, as staff, we meet to plan the rest of the day. There are children to be followed up in their families or schools. Children, who once were on the streets, but now have been reconciled to their own family again. Others of our staff will go out to the streets to visit other children, who have not come to the centre. But let´s go to the shelter, which is 20 km outside the city centre, in the small village of Mwandege. Here we meet Emmanuel and his wife, Jane, who live and work with those who just recently have come off the streets. Emmanuel is a teacher and home-schools the children, a challenge, as some have never been to school, while others have had several years of school. Some children come to the shelter very sick, with high fever and malaria. Jane cares for them like a mother, cooking special food and tending to their needs.
About the Safina Drop-In Centre
Safina Street Network is a holistic outreach to vulnerable children and young people in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Many come from broken families and decide to live on the streets. They face crime, drug abuse, hardship and repeated rejection. Safina aims to help these children to know God and come into a personal relationship with him through Jesus Christ. We also want them to understand God´s plan for their lives and assist them with shelter, food, medical treatment, education and life skills.
Every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon, we meet for group discussions. We speak about rejection, peer pressure, drugs, AIDS, family and many other life issues. We look at God’s Word for guidance and help. But there is also time to speak one-to-one. Adam is of great help when he comes with his ‘Green Bag’, a special counselling aid for traumatised children. After three months many are ready to return to their family or relatives, but not everyone. Some will move on to our family homes. One is just 2 km away from the shelter. Here we meet Lameck and his wife, Suzanna. They are parents to 19 children – five of their own and 14 foster children – a big family. All the children now go to the public school. It’s a big job to see that all the children go to school at the right time, with clean uniforms, do their homework, get food, keep their rooms clean, but also know that they are loved and accepted. Many hours are spent in talking, explaining, guiding, repeating, encouraging and in solving problems. But every night before the evening meal, they come together and their songs are heard far into the neighbourhood, as they worship and pray to God. And we pray that Jesus will become real to them and that they will trust him.
Just a few yards away, in our former guard house, are their big brothers. Those above 18 years live together with Nicholaus at the hostel. They still go to Secondary School, college or vocational training, but they also prepare to stand on their own feet. They cook their own meals and learn to be more responsible, until the day they move out and, hopefully, will follow the example of Nicholaus or Amani. Both are former street children, but now Nicholaus serves at Safina and Amani has a family and became an elder of his church. Working with street children is like going on a long walk over mountains and through valleys, but we have a Shepherd who leads us and who gave his life for us. He is faithful and he will lead us to our heavenly home and Father.