A home for the less fortunate [Archives:2009/1226/Last Page]

January 19 2009

Enas Ahmed Al-Awami
On a late Monday morning, Rasheed Abdulwahab, 14, whose home had been the streets for two years, went to the Childhood Safety Center and asked to be taken in.

His meeting with the center's director Fadl Moghrem did not last long before his request was turned down. The explanation he was given was that he did not fit the standards.

“He's already 14 and when he reaches 16 he'll leave the center according to our program. We won't have enough time to correct his behavior to reach the center's goals,” said Moghrem.

Rasheed is from the village of Jahran in the Dhamar governorate. His father is sick and unable to do anything, and his mother does not live with his father. Rasheed says his family is poor. He moved to Sana'a because his brothers used to beat him and tie him down whenever he refused to go out to work carrying concrete blocks. He tried to escape when he was 12, but his brothers found him. Now he's in Sana'a to start a new life and to join the Childhood Safety Center.

“I heard about the center and I always wanted to come. One of my friends told me not to come because you hit them and treat them badly. But I decided to come anyway. What's the difference? At least I might find a warmer place to sleep. I'm sick of my family's torment and of having to run away,” Rasheed answered when Moghrem asked him why he came.

Like Rasheed, many other teenage boys who live in the streets were not fortunate enough to be admitted to the safety center. The center already has too many applications, as each day at least three boys turn up on its doorstep seeking refuge from harsh street life.

The Childhood Safety Center

The Childhood Safety Center is considered to be one of the main centers specialized in the social and cultural rehabilitation of the homeless children. The center was established in December 2001 and was entrusted to the Al-Saleh Social Foundation for development in July 2004.

The purpose of the center is to protect and take care of homeless children whose families were unable to feed them properly, give them love and attention, and teach them how to interact with their community. The center aims to qualify them socially and vocationally to enable them to reintegrate into mainstream society.

The center, which contains more than nine bedrooms, two classes and one clinic, is home to more than 35 boys between the ages of seven and 16. If a boy reaches the age of 16 but cannot return home, the center finds him a job so that he can earn a living. Children from very poor backgrounds usually hear about the center by word of mouth, and run away from home to seek refuge there. As for the younger children, they are usually brought to the center by the police or by their own family because they are unable to take care of their child.

According to Moghrem, the center doesn't usually take orphans in, but instead transfers them to an orphanage. They don't keep any children without first informing the family. In the case of those who are forwarded to the center by a police station or a third party, they search for his family until they find them. When they do, the boys' parents do not pay anything to the center.

One of the boys is studying in high school. He spends the morning at school and the afternoon at the center, then goes home to sleep.

As soon as a boy arrives to the center, they isolate him immediately from the rest until they have studied his case and decide how to help him. The center makes sure that the boy has no infectious diseases, and asks him how old he is, where he is from and why he came to the center. He has an interview with a psychologist who then decides which of the center's three groups he will join and where he will sleep according to his age and situation.

In the beginning, he takes part in the center's illiteracy eradication classes if he is illiterate, then the center enrolls him in school or gives him vocational training so that he may find a job easily in the future.

Four psychologists and one social worker teach the children and follow their progress. There are also females workers – especially to help the younger children who need a mother's touch.

“If they are around, the children can go to visit their family every week and the center provides the transport to get there,” said Abdulkhabeer Mohammed Ahmed, one of the center's psychologists.

“The center is working hard to achieve the goals of its different programs in the areas of study, health, skill development, community awareness, religious education, entertainment and sports,” he added.

The fortunate ones

Mohamed Nasser Al-Nassabi, 11, has been living at the center for one and half years now. He says he feels comfortable, living a more settled life and going to school, after almost nine years of living in the street without a goal.

“I don't want to go back home. They just want me to go out and sell tissues in the street. My stepmother kept beating me and kicked me out of the house,” Mohamed said, “I like football. I just want to be like football player Leonardino.”

Abdullah Al-Raimi, 13, wants to be a pilot and fly all over the world when he grows up.

“I know that life is much better than we see it,” he said. “My father brought me into this life only to work and give him money. I ran away many times and I don't want to go back to him, or even live with my family anymore.”

Most of the children at the center are there because their parents neglect, whether they ran away from home to the center or were brought there from the streets by the police.

As for Rasheed, he has met a bus driver who has offered him a job as a bus fare-collector. Who knows what he will be doing, and what kind of environment he will be living in. Who knows how many boys like Rasheed are waiting for a chance to be saved and given the opportunity of a dignified life.