Street-connected children are among the most vulnerable groups in society. The world over, they face violence and abuse, are stigmatised and denied the opportunities they need to fulfil their potential.
Those who work directly with these young people face a raft of tough challenges, from dealing with hostile police and corrupt governments to tackling wider intolerance and – at the heart of everything – caring for young people with complex needs who may have little or no other support. Many of these young people carry the trauma of violence, whether physical, emotional or sexual. Frontline workers share that burden and to do the utmost to lessen it. There can be no doubt this work is exhausting, all-consuming and at times distressing.
And yet, these frontline workers say they live and breathe for the young people they support, however hard it is. Whether they work with youth on the streets of Kenya, India or Brazil, or in the UK, they say they are driven to continue with this difficult work not just by the desire to help individuals but because they know because these young people are the future. Caring for a child can be challenging for any parents, even in good circumstances, but these frontline workers readily take on responsibility for children whom others have cast out.
As the leader of a project in Sochi, Russia, put it: “What we have in common is that we put first the children whom the rest of the world puts last.”