Between April 6th and 12th, organisations working with street-connected children around the world will be recognising International Day for Street Children (IDSC), a special day acknowledging the strength and resilience of millions of children around the world. Amid the global pandemic, this year’s IDSC campaign focusses on the third step of the 4 Steps to Equality: provide access to services. With the campaign, organisations aim to encourage governments and communities to ensure that street-connected children have access to the same essential services as every other child, such as hospitals and schools, so that they can reach their full potential.
And let’s start by stating the obvious: there is still a tremendous amount of work to do! Paradoxically, in a year where the needs for street-connected children and their families increased exponentially, it became much more difficult for youth work organisations to reach their target groups to offer the much-needed support. Lockdowns and social distancing measures left many young people stranded on the streets, and in many countries such as Kenya, Uganda and India, access to emergency services such as food parcels was denied for those who aren’t officially registered. On a global scale, report after report is showing the devastating emotional and psychological impact of the pandemic on the wellbeing of young people, and these consequences will surely be felt well beyond the current year.
Luckily our brave local StreetSmart partners showed their street skills by responding with tons of resilience, creativity and positive focus to the ever-changings situations in their countries. In Mexico, the team of Alimentos para la Vida decided in August to take the mobile school out again despite strict local restrictions, simply to boost the mental wellbeing of the youngsters they work with. In Togo, the same decision was made in December. Other global partners who didn’t get the necessary permissions to take out their mobile school to the streets, did everything they could to align their non-formal educational programmes with the current COVID-19 regulations. All with one common goal: ensuring access to services for street-connected children, to make sure these hidden talents get the opportunity to grow.
This global pandemic hit us all hard, not in the least the communities living and working on the street. But out of crises can emerge new and incredible opportunities, particularly if traditional approaches and paradigms are questioned and challenged. So why not challenge and question the long-standing misconceptions on street-connected children and use the pandemic to finally shift to a new paradigm. One where governments and organisations worldwide deliberately recognise the talents and the potential of these 150 million young people in the street, by looking at them as an opportunity and not as a problem, and by ensuring #AccessforStreetChildren.