Christopher Mulenga and Friends of the Street Children

Christopher Mulenga and Friends of the Street Children are strong advocates that street children are like any other children – bright, resilient, individual and deserving of a future. They believe that building relationships with street children based on understanding and respect, is the only way to help them become responsible, happy members of society.

Street children in Kitwe, Zambia’s third largest city, are anonymous. With no home and no legal papers, the street is everything - home, workplace and social space. But society generally believes they play the role of nuisance or criminal.

Many children are separated from their families because of poverty or domestic violence, and rapidly increasing HIV/AIDS infection rates are accelerating the rate at which children are being orphaned. Family breakdown, high unemployment and inadequate child protection laws also force children onto the streets.

Since 2001, Friends of the Street Children (FSC) has aimed to change perceptions of street children, working to find long term solutions instead of quick fixes. In providing refuges and high quality street-based services, they also offer much-needed friendship, guidance and support. Their successful street corner education programme helps street children – who have no access to education - to develop essential literacy and numeracy skills. In 2007 alone, 144 students attended street corner classes and over half went on to further education or training.

Alongside Street Child Africa (a UK-based agency), Mr Mulenga has played an important role in using his experience and expertise to train those who work with street children and the local community. He promotes an approach that is based on building relationships with street children, community leaders, government, the justice system, church leaders and civic leaders. His leadership is now recognised by the local government.

In 2007, he presented the ‘running tap’ theory to the Ministry of Community Development and Social Services, arguing that the real problem is not the children themselves, but the fact that they come from poor communities faced with many obstacles. This has influenced the measures taken by the government to address social issues; for example, making small food packages available to the poorest families has helped children remain at home rather than taking to the streets to search for food.

Friends of the Street Children’s ultimate aim is to help re-integrate children who want to go back into their families. Since 2001, they have helped 543 children return to families and homes. 90% have never gone back to the street.

Click here to read a special interview with Christopher Mulenga
International Service Human Rights Award winner Christopher Mulenga and Friends of the Street Children, Zambia

© Andy Aitchison

Related pages

The 2008 awards in-depth: special interview with Christopher Mulenga