Laughter Africa is a developmental and humanitarian organisation working with street children in Africa. In our world currently, according to the UN, there are an estimated 100 million street children. In an emergency context, street children end up the bottom of the pile. They are no one?s priority. There is no one there listening to their voice. They have nowhere to turn. They become easy pickings for armies or militant groups looking for child soldiers. Similarly they may be former child combatants who have fled from the fighting, still haunted by the acts they have committed. Laughter Africa will be there in emergencies standing alongside the street children showing them that they do matter and that there is still hope without judgement or condemnation. We also work in non-emergency contexts too.
Laughter Africa works in a variety of different ways. The first priority for Laughter Africa is dealing with the immediate needs of the street children on the street. They may be hungry and need food. They may be ill and need medical care. They may have been raped and need someone to talk to. They may be having legal trouble with the police or judiciary and need someone to advocate on their behalf. They may be lonely or grieving and just need a listening ear. Whatever they need, Laughter Africa is willing to provide.
We will achieve our vision by working with street children to fulfil their aspirations and to help them to bring about positive change in their lives in the following ways:
This involves our outreach teams meeting street children on the streets. It is a chance for us to get to know them and for them to get to know us. It?s about building a mutual trust. Many street children choose to stay on the streets and a key part of our work is meeting the street children where they are at. This may mean just being there when they need us. It may be providing medical care, legal advice, a listening ear, something to eat or other support when needed. We are also on hand if the street children suffer such harm on the streets such as stabbing or sexual abuse. We are standing with them side by side on the frontlines of street life. We will also provide skills training and education on the street so that the street children, even if they want to remain on the streets, at least have some skills to survive on the street. We will also invite them to participate in different sporting activities or other activities to do with music, drama or art. Through all these activities we can get to know the children, and them us, moving us one step closer to helping them leave the street eventually.
Our temporary shelter
The Laughter Africa shelter is a safe space for street children to live while we attempt to find their families. At the shelter; food, clothing, health care, education, counselling, support and other essentials will be provided. There will be lots of different activities offered including arts, sports, music, drama, games and other entertainment so that the street children don?t get chance to miss the streets and feel tempted to return. It also gives the street children a chance to clean up, rest and if they have been using drugs or other substances, gives them a chance to break the endless cycle of addiction before they return home. At the shelter, we discuss with the children what they would like to do in the long term and what the next steps involve e.g. education, vocational training, apprenticeships etc.....
Our home-tracing and family reunification work
This is where we try to trace the street child?s family in the hope that they can be reunited with them. This is dependent on if the family situation is safe and secure. If the family situation is not safe, for instance if there is sexual or physical abuse taking place, then an alternative long-term home will be found e.g. fostering. However, we don?t just dump the child home straight away. We try to get to the root of the problem of why the child went on to the street in the first place. This involves meeting with relatives and we try to propose a solution that best fits the family and the child. This hopefully means that the child feels happier and the original issues that precipitated their move on to the streets are resolved.
Once the child is reunited with their family, we don?t just forget about them. They still remain part of the Laughter Africa family. We will keep in touch with the street children and their family to check on their progress and make sure that everything is going OK. If any problems arise, then we?ll try and lend a hand before the child is tempted by the streets again. We will also pay for the child?s school fees or vocational training to ensure that they have a bright future ahead of them so that the streets become a distant memory.