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Street Outreach • Kenya • 2023
“I want to change my life. I will be joining a rehabilitation centre to change my life and go back to school.” Tumo

In 2021, Toybox’s partner in Kenya, Pendekezo Letu, ran an innovative project giving young people involved in their activities an opportunity to tell their own stories through photography. Over a few months, children attended workshops in which they learned about photography skills, informed consent and storytelling through captioning of photographs, before they then took to the streets to capture their daily realities on film.

Tumo is one of the teenagers who took part. Here, he shares more of his story and how he found himself involved in the Sauti ya Bazenga photography project.

“I am 13 and live on the streets of Nairobi. I came onto the streets in 2015 when my parents’ fighting became too much. This was when I dropped out of school when I was in Year 2. One evening, my father came home one night and started beating my mother. This made me so angry and I couldn’t stand to watch it anymore, so I decided to run away from home and seek shelter at my friend’s street base in the city. He taught me how to survive on the street. We had to move from our first base because there were a lot of bigger boys who were bullying the younger members. That was when we ended up at the base where we live now, which has children who are the same age as me."

"Every morning, I usually wake up at 5am in the morning. We have to wake up early before the shops open so we can go and hide our beddings in a safe place. After that, I take my sack and head to a roundabout in town where I collect any recyclables which I could sell for money. Mostly, it’s metals, nails, bones, plastics and cartons. After a few house, normally around 10am, I take the things I’ve collected to be weighed and sold. Normally, I make between 200 and 300 Kenyan shillings (£1.30 - £1.95) a day.

With the money I get, I head to a food kiosk to get my breakfast, then from there, I go to meet with other base members. But then, at 2pm, I head back out onto the streets where I beg for money from passersby until about 6pm before meeting my friends again to hang out and eat supper before we go and gather our bedding."

“Every so often, we have to move where we sleep because sometimes guards and the police harass us, although this isn’t too common.” Tumo

"I met PKL in January 2021 and since then a lot of things have changed. Now I know that street-connected children also have rights just like other children. I also know which hospitals I can go to now to get medication if I need it. I’ve attended child rights and life skills sessions which have given me more information. I’ve also been given crocs and clothes – I now have clothes to change whereas before, I only had one set of clothes. The crocs keep my feet safe when I’m scavenging because I don’t step on sharp objects or dirty things.

I also did the Bazenga project. I learned how to record videos with the camera and that a landscape photo looks better than a portrait photo. I’d love to get a camera so I can do this as a hobby, and if a picture is good, I’d hang it in my house one day. I enjoyed taking pictures of my friends just looking at their photos – their poses make me happy. I feel most proud to have been able to teach other base members how to take photos – this was when I realised I could learn quicker than the bigger boys!

Projects like this are so important because you can share your stories with other people – to show people who are far away how your life is, even if they don’t come to see where you are. I’ve been inspired to take most photos in the future because it’s easy and fun – and it means something that’s in a photo will never be forgotten. It makes me feel happy that photos that we all took can be shown to so many people, although seeing them made me miss one of my friends who went to rehab."

“The best thing was that when we were doing the project, we were so happy. We laughed a lot when taking the photos. Sometimes we even forgot we were hungry and we didn’t use as many drugs. I felt I could do something productive with my life when I was taking the photos. I’m so grateful to have had this training in photography.” Tumo

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