Ben* is the last born in a family of four. He was born in 1991 and his parents died in the year 2000, leaving the entire family under the care of their uncle and aunty who later relocated to another place, leaving Ben alone in the Korogocho slums, a deprived and sometimes dangerous part of Nairobi. (Ben's older siblings had either married or were just surviving and could not accommodate their younger brother.)
Ben now lives in a rented wooden shack for which he pays Ksh 300 per month (about US $4). He has neither furniture nor proper bedding to keep himself warm. For him to put food on the table he has to work for it, unlike other children who depend on their parents. Despite very high crime rates, child and drug abuse in the slums, Ben has managed to overcome all odds.
Ben's day starts at 6.00 am, when he gets some porridge at the SOS Social Centre in nearby Buru Buru, (known locally as the SOS Family Care Centre) to start his day before he sets off for school. At school all of Ben's classmates and teachers like him so much and this is where Ben feels accepted and loved. They always pray for him and share little things with him. His teacher has been very supportive. At school he is an average student, but they believe that if he had had proper parental guidance and care Ben would have been one of the top students in school.
Collects garbage at weekends
After school, while other children run home to meet their parents and brothers and sisters, Ben runs to a nearby market place hoping to get work to do in order to survive. In the evenings he retires to bed and in order to wash he has to buy his water at one shilling for a 20 litre plastic container. We can all imagine a child who lives in this world without knowing parental love, and yet Ben is able to look after himself. During the weekend when other children are busy playing with their friends, Ben sets out early to collect plastic, metal and copper or to empty people's garbage. On an average day he makes Ksh 105 (about a dollar and a half), which enables him to feed himself through out the week.
Through community participation and the goodwill of its members Ben has been able to live. The 'SOS Family Care Centre' Nairobi came into his life in 2003 when the social workers carried out a case study and verified that what they had heard was true, the young boy did live by himself. Immediately the social workers put him into school where he got free quality primary education. But food became a problem for him and that's when the idea of a food programme came up. Ben was among the first beneficiaries to receive a monthly food ration from the social centre.
Ben's present life is possible because of the 'SOS Family Care Centre'. They give him medical care, educational support and a standard monthly food pack. What really astonishes the centre staff is that Ben does everything for himself, with no care giver to supervise him. The centre has plans to build a small home for him where he can study without worrying about where he will get the money to pay the rent. When that happens Ben's life will change, and although he will not have the motherly love that many children have, he will at least have some security, knowing that people do care about him and his future.
*For privacy reasons we have changed the name of the boy.