It was a happy scene as House of Smiles (HoS) – a drop-in centre for children who live and work on the streets – re-opened after undergoing renovations. To some it was a welcome back home moment, while to others it was a newly found treasure.
The centre was closed for two months to allow renovations to take place. Now looking as good as new, the centre got a face lift that included fixed roofs, re-doing of electrical connections, painting, and having a borehole-fed tank erected. The centre now also includes a computer laboratory for the kids.
HoS opened in 2004. The premises is a house that was converted into a drop-in centre for children living and working on the streets after the founders noticed the growing numbers of street children in Harare. HoS provides children most in need with food, health care, and education. It also runs awareness activities using music, art and painting on HIV prevention and therapies.
Enias Marama, Child Protection Officer at HoS, said the centre is open to children from Monday to Friday.
“This place is not a residential property, but rather a drop-in centre for the children. We get about 25 to 30 children visiting the place every day,” he said.
He also emphasised the need to reunite the children with their families, adding that at times children do not remember where they came from as they started living on the streets at a very young age. “Sometimes we trace their families through the school they once attended. We contact the school authorities and find the relatives of the child,” said Marama.
Marama urged well-wishers to donate in cash or kind, adding that the centre is resourced and funded by donors alone. He also called for the children to use the centre to improve their lives.
Beverly Kenesi (21) says she was brought up by the centre from a very tender age and that she will be completing her course in dress-making courtesy of HoS. “I am graduating in November in dressing-making and sewing at Oasis Global which is a college working with HoS to give street girls life skills,” she said.
She said that at the centre they are being taught about health issues and that they attend workshops to learn self-reliance and about helping others in the community.
She said she was very happy that the centre has re-opened.
“I am delighted to be here again. The centre brought me up as its daughter, giving me all I needed from sanitary ware, food, clothes, bath soap and facilities and education. I am happy,” added Kenesi.
At HoS, kids like Kenesi get to know other street children through sport and activities such as arts and drama which depict street life.
Street kid Kennedy Masona said at the re-opening, that it was his first time at the centre, and expressed gratitude for it, saying. “I will make sure that I visit this place often so that I can bath, and have good food rather than getting food from bins.”
Research and Public Affairs Officer at the Australian Embassy, Nora de Roon Hertoge, who works with HoS and also funded the renovations, said the embassy is delighted with the up-graded facility.
Image: Renovated House of Smiles